Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The Pericles Commission"

Gary Corby is a first time novelist, former systems programmer at Microsoft, and lives in Australia with his wife and two daughters.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new book, The Pericles Commission, and reported the following:
The Pericles Commission is a murder mystery set in the Athens of 461BC. That year was the birth of western democracy. This part is for-real! The politician who created it, a man named Ephialtes, was in real life murdered only days later. Athens was saved by an up-and-coming political genius by the name of Pericles, and the Golden Age of Greece began. In my version of history, Pericles commissions a young man named Nicolaos to catch the killer.

By sheer coincidence, page 69 happens to show us Pericles, as he confronts his biggest problem in The Pericles Commission. Our hero Nicolaos discusses the suspects, one by one, then says:
“But why reach for the top of the tree when there is low hanging fruit to be plucked?”

“Your meaning?” asked Pericles.

“Your father. He knew the time and place. He has the motive, he had the opportunity.”

Pericles leaned against the wall and shut his eyes. “Could I bring my own father to trial for murder? Should I? Would it count as patricide?”

“You would have to ask a priest that, or a philosopher.”

“Perhaps I’ll have to ask Archestratus to act for me.”
This isn't a spoiler, by the way. The father of Pericles is thrown up as a suspect in the opening scene. The Archestratus referred to was a legal eagle. He was a real historical person who, like Pericles, wanted to lead Athens. Nicolaos says:
“On that subject, Pericles, what would you do if Archestratus is the killer?”

Pericles opened one eye. “Are you saying he might be?”

“He did have a reason for wanting Ephialtes dead. Look at the way he’s behaved since. I think he already has more followers than you do, Pericles. You need to watch out for him. You don’t seem to be doing much to build your position.”

Pericles laughed and said, “Ah, Nicolaos, Nicolaos! How we do change! It wasn’t so long ago, my young friend, a mere four days, that you had to ask me my name. Now you are my political advisor!”

Our meandering had taken us close to where the fishwives were screeching at the tops of their voices, the aroma of warm fish was not enticing, and somewhere close by someone was cooking goat meat in garlic. Pericles screwed up his face and said, “Come, let’s go for a walk elsewhere.”
I cannot resist cheating a trifle. The top of page 69 is the middle of a discussion of another suspect, which on page 68 begins:
“Ephialtes left his mistress Euterpe that morning. She says she doesn’t know where he was going, but we have only her word for that. Of course it’s ridiculous to think she could have pulled the bow, but she could easily have sent a man.”

“A man willing to commit murder just because she asks? Is that realistic?”

“I see you haven’t met her.”

“It sounds like I should.”
One of my favorite short jokes.
Visit Gary Corby's blog.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue