Beware Of Greeks by Peter Tonkin

Genre: Historical fiction

Published: 2020

No. of Pages: 177

A riveting and gruesome read, Beware of Greeks is an instant success as the first book in Tonkin’s new series The Trojan Murders. Inspired by Homer’s epic poem, the Iliad, and fused with ancient Greek myths, Beware of Greeks follows Odysseus, and his newly acquired rhapsode apprentice, on a mission to recruit Achilles to Agamemnon’s cause – the siege of Troy. In the midst of hunting for the powerful warrior and recruiting other king’s armies to pledge their allegiance to fight alongside Agamemnon, Odysseus encounters a disfigured body, and the novel becomes a compelling murder mystery.

Opening with the backdrop of Troy, Tonkin creates an enchanting and mystical atmosphere through the city’s details, which sets the tone for the novel. As the novel progresses, Tonkin’s seamless descriptions of the lands of Phthia, Skopelos, and Skyros reflect the continuous movement of Odysseus and his crew’s travels between each place, as well as propelling the action. The moonlit shores with quiet yet fleeting moments for the crew to rest, powerfully contrast to the striking murders and grotesque bodies that are discovered.

Beware of Greeks adopts a unique stance as it is written through the lens of a crippled rhapsode, whose recitals of epic poems add an alluring cadence to the novel, helping situate it even more so in its time period. As an outsider to the glory of a monarch’s existence and the gore of a battlefield, the rhapsode is a quiet, yet astute observer of the action, and slowly learns, though sometimes unpleasantly, about these paths of life. This first-person narrative from a rhapsode’s angle is indeed intriguing, and it is satisfying to watch his character develop.  

Alongside the rhapsode is the hero of the novel, Odysseus. Though formidable and a stern leader on both land and at sea, Odysseus most favourable qualities are his charisma and his impressive observation skills when it comes to corpses. Undoubtedly, Odysseus is a polar opposite to the rhapsode, and the two strike as an unlikely pairing of protagonists, however, Tonkin is successful in his characters as they provide an entertaining balance.

While Beware of Greeks wholly encompasses the themes of death and enigma; at the heart of the novel lies the classic themes of Greek mythology – reputation, honour, and love. These themes are interwoven with subtlety, often hidden behind character’s motives, but nonetheless, the effects are felt powerfully.  

Tonkin is skilful in his ability of crafting the denouement. Mysteries are explained, murders are paired with answers, and an abundance of secrets are revealed – more than expected. These unforeseen and surprising secrets that are brought to light in a timely climax aid the final plot line, providing the story with a unique spark and unfaltering suspense until the very end.

A lover of history or murder mysteries, or even a thrill from a story’s upheld suspense – Beware of Greeks is a must read. 

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