As regular readers will have noticed, I’ve been doing an occasional thread called “Original Sins” concerning mysteries set in the Ancient World. There’s been nine books in total, far fewer than I intended, but it’s time to draw the thread to a close. Why’s that, I hopefully hear you cry? Well, to be frank, I’m not really enjoying it that much.
Of the nine books, I can say that I’ve enjoyed less than half of them, and even fewer have been easy reads – for some reason, this era of history seems to have trouble engaging my attention. I’m rather disappointed by this – there were a number of series that were on my list to get round to eventually, but now it seems rather unlikely.
Egypt seems to have fared best, as both Death Comes As The End and The Slayers of Seth were great. But the Romans, Greeks and Macedonians all had trouble engaging my interest, whether it came from the books being overlong, too full of distractions or simply being a little dull. Furies earns points for being a good read, but it is a thriller, rather than a mystery. “Ancient” Ireland fared well, but Peter Tremayne can always be relied upon for a good read and a good mystery – but, let’s face it, Sister Fidelma doesn’t really count as the Ancient World.
But what about the authors that you haven’t tried, I hear you cry – possibly? Well, hand on heart, the obvious omission is Lindsay Davis and the Falco series, but I’ve tried to start Alexandria on about five separate occasions and can’t get on with the combination of seemingly modern attitude and the Ancient World. And after struggling through Roman Blood to no reward, I’m not inclined to read a long book that I’m not enjoying. There are other authors as well, such as Marilyn Todd, but I simply haven’t been able to easily get a copy of her work over here.
As detailed here, I’ll be starting on a chronological tour through the Medieval world soon – any more suggestions gratefully received – and in the meantime, historical mystery fans, I’ll finish off Original Sins with a return to the series that provided the book that was the best of the lot by quite some distance – namely the Chief Judge Amerotke series by Paul Doherty.
So, apologies if I didn’t get round to your favourite, but I’d rather read what I think I’ll enjoy. Fingers crossed that the Medieval world proves more fruitful.
A bit of a pity, this. I enjoyed reading these reviews and it really has helped whittle down my reading list in some spots (although it’s been expanded in other spots, and you keep reminding me that I have to get around to that Peter Tremayne book I bought a while back!)
But if you don’t enjoy something, you have every right to stop doing it. It’s an understandable reason and we can only hope that the next historical era will far better.
Although it is odd how some subjects never seem to make for great reads. Sherlock Holmes in particular can be vulnerable to this sort of thing– for instance, I’ve yet to read a story set in Canada that does justice to Holmes. I’ve read fictionalised history textbooks. I’ve read rip-offs of canonical adventures. But an enjoyable Holmes pastiche set in Canada? That seems to be out-of-bounds. And only just yesterday I finished reading a tale of the giant rat of Sumatra that finally satisfied me.
What surprised me most is that even two of the three Paul Doherty books that I picked didn’t really grab me – although, to be fair, other books in each series were excellent. I’ve a lot more confidence in the medieval world – but I do have to start with that old bugbear of mine, Cadfael…
I think you’ve given it more than a fair shot – and I say that as a reader who is constitutionally geared towards stubbornly refusing to let go – so I tip my hat chum – very sensible of you.
Cheers, mate. I have greater hopes for the medieval world, although I think the hardest part is going to be keeping the chronology right. That part might go flying out the window after a bit… After all, I think, if I’ve worked it out right, there is a sequence of four out of five Paul Doherty books – a Corbett, The Crown Jewels Robbery book, a Mathilde and Isabella & the Strange Death of Edward II. Oh, and the Death Of A King fits in there as well, with only a Michael Jecks book to break it up. Have to re-think a little…
I agree, if a subject doesn’t grab you, you should not waste time reading about it. Too many good books out there. But I had really hoped for a review of a book in the Lindsay Davis series. I am committed to reading the first one in that series this year anyway. Looking forward to your reviews of books set in the Medieval time period.
Maybe I’ll give Davis another try at a later date. I’ll see what you think and take it from there
Kudos to you for ending what was unfulfilling for you. It took me almost 50 years in this life to lose my guilty feeling if I did not finish a book I had begun, or ended a project that was going nowhere. Life is too short, time too precious.
In your medieval mystery exploration, don’t overlook the Fools Guild series by Alan Gordon. The books might have some of the same problem of modern sensibility/historic era as you found jarring in some of the Roman books, but for me, the stories had enough of a hook that I could overlook the occasional lapse.