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The Tomb of Zeus: A Laetitia Talbot Mystery    by Barbara Cleverly order for
Tomb of Zeus
by Barbara Cleverly
Order:  USA  Can
Delta, 2007 (2007)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As I began reading The Tomb of Zeus, I enjoyed its background on the island of Crete, its history, and its archeological excavations, more than the mystery itself. But I soon warmed up to the latter when its author, Barbara Cleverly, began unveiling several unusual - and surprising - plot twists.

The tale is set in 1928 Herakleion, where spirited series heroine - and keen amateur archaeologist - Laetitia Talbot journeys to work on a dig under the aegis of Theodore Russell. Welcomed into the well-known archeologist's Villa Europa by his much younger wife Phoebe, Letty immediately feels the seeds of friendship for her hostess. However she also realizes that she's landed herself in a rather uncomfortable situation. It's not only the tension within the household - where other students and Russell's son George also reside - caused by Theodore's irascible nature and nasty digs at all and sundry. Letty is also shocked by the appearance of architect William Gunning, with whom she has a history, with strong feelings on both sides.

Russell assigns Letty a barren dig and a crew that he has chosen to punish, including Gunning. But before they get going, there's a death at Villa Europa, followed by an explosion from Russell that results in a serious accident for another member of the party. As they gradually learn more about what precipitated these events, Letty, Gunning and dig team leader Aristidis (who has his own history with Theodore Russell) turn the tables on their mentor by making an extraordinary find. Could they have uncovered the Tomb of Zeus?

An aspiring archeologist heroine makes one think immediately of Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody but Laetitia doesn't quite have her appeal, nor does her romance with Gunning hold the fire of the Peabody/Emerson battle of wills. However, I recommend this new series to anyone who enjoys good historical mysteries immersed in archeological excavation and speculation. At the back of the book is an excerpt from a second in the series, Tug of War, that opens in 1915 France.

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