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The Tomb of Zeus (Letitia Talbot Mysteries) Paperback – October 30, 2007

Book 1 of 3 in the Laetitia Talbot Series

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The Tomb of Zeus (Letitia Talbot Mysteries) + A Darker God: A Laetitia Talbot Mystery (William Monk) + Bright Hair About the Bone (Leatitia Talbot Mysteries, No. 2)
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dagger Award–winner Cleverly takes a break from her acclaimed Joe Sandilands series (The Bee's Kiss, etc.) to launch another 1920s series, this time with an amateur sleuth protagonist. Laetitia Letty Talbot, a neophyte archeologist, turns detective while visiting Theodore Russell, an authority on Crete's history who's determined to find the tomb of the Greek god Zeus on the island. Letty dislikes Theodore but befriends his frail wife, Phoebe. Soon after, Phoebe hangs herself, an act so out of character that Letty joins forces with the local inspector to probe deeper. When the autopsy reveals that Phoebe was pregnant and Theodore could not have been the father, Letty finds a range of potential suspects in the potential fathers-to-be. A witness to the crime eventually turns up to solve the case, making this less of a puzzler than the Sandilands books, but the crisp writing and depth of characterization should please traditional mystery fans. (Oct.)
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Review

“Crisp writing and depth of characterization should please traditional mystery fans.”—Publishers Weekly

“For readers who love Elizabeth Peters and Jacqueline Winspear and still hanker for Agatha Christie.... [Cleverly] demonstrates a knack for creating full-blown historical puzzlers with complicated plots and engaging characters in unusual settings.”—Library Journal, starred review

“Tucked into the wealth of archaeological and historical detail is a full-blown English houseparty murder.... With a spirited, intelligent heroine, a glorious exotic setting, a clever plot, loads of archaeological detail and a touch of romance there's nothing not to like in this crisply told first book of a new series.”—Denver Post
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Product Details

  • Series: Letitia Talbot Mysteries
  • Paperback: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Delta (October 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385339909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385339902
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #424,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Barbara Cleverly is a former teacher and a graduate of Durham University who now lives in Cambridge. Her debut, The Last Kashmiri Rose, was a New York Times Notable Book of 2002.

Customer Reviews

Laetitia's character was just a little too disjointed and inconsistent.
Shy Guy
Cleverly provides a very strong sense of place and history, and I learned about both, which I really enjoy from a book.
L. J. Roberts
Readers of historical mysteries and armchair time travelers will thoroughly enjoy this wonderful whodunit.
Harriet Klausner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Roberts VINE VOICE on January 9, 2008
Format: Paperback
First Sentence: The big gates were in sight and were standing open.

Laetitia Talbot is an aspiring archaeologist who has come to Crete. There she finds a man she's known before, her host, Theodore Russell who is looking for the Tomb of Zeus and has assigned Laetitla a site for her dig, and his charismatic wife, Phoebe. Laetitia finds Phoebe hanged, doesn't believe it to be a suicide and joins forces with the local police to find the killer.

I really enjoyed this book on many levels. The character isn't flamboyant, such as Kate Greenwood's Phryne Fisher, whom I enjoy, and isn't egotistically irritating, such as Elizabeth Peter's Amelia Peabody. In fact, the book and protagonist reminded me a bit of Mary Stewart's suspense novels in that the protagonist is smart, independent and resourceful. Cleverly provides a very strong sense of place and history, and I learned about both, which I really enjoy from a book. From the prologue to the end, Cleverly does give you all the clues to the solution; but they are subtle and you really have to pay attention to catch them. Both the story and the characters were revealed rather as the layers of an onion; the further you went, the more you learned. I enjoyed each new revelation as it was given and had the occasional "oh, wow" reaction. I'm not a big fan of the amateur sleuth, so I really appreciated that, in the end, it was the police who solve the mystery. There's a little bit of a romance, which adds to the fun. The only slight negative I had was that Cleverly occasionally went off on archaeological tangents that, while fascinating, slowed down the story a bit. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and hope we'll see more of Laetitia.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By April on January 31, 2008
Format: Paperback
Set in the '20s, Laetitia Talbot is a modern Bright Young Thing, with brains, education and a highly respected mentor to recommend her--and her family's money to help her out. She's got the experience to supervise a dig team and lands in Crete where at the Villa Europa, Theodore Russell hopes to equal the great finds made by Sir Arthur Evans at the Palace of Knossos. He hopes to find the Tomb of Zeus and has tapped Letty to lead one of the digs.

But all is not just archaeology at the Villa Europa. Crete has had a bloody history, most recently between the Greeks and the Turks with intercession by the British--events that still affect the current day. And there was the bloody Great War that haunts the past of some. The ancient past as well as the recent past all play a part in a series of events that come to a head with the mysterious death at Villa Europa.

The mystery is slow to build, but there is complexity and twists and red-herrings. The glimpses into the recent past and the more distant past were interesting. Letty is a strange mix of the old and new, with the exuberance of youth and of the new opportunities open to women. It's a bit jarring at times, but brings the period to life.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By James North on December 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this novel more than the Joe Sandilands series. Cleverly uses the device of the prologue again and to great effect. As usual, the seeds of the story are sown in the very early chapters (though they may be too subtle for the inattentive reader!) Links are made through time and myth and, at the end of the book, we meet (in other guise) a character who has been there right from the very start. Cleverly always plays fair with the reader and the clues to the primary and the secondary murders are hidden in plain sight - for those with eyes to see - resulting in one satisfying solution.
As well as a first rate mystery, we are treated to a wonderfully evocative setting, intriguing characters and ideas that linger long after the last page.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Shy Guy on January 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I enjoy the Joe Sandilands series very much and had high hopes for this one. I find the writing to be not on the same par as the author's other books. Laetitia's character was just a little too disjointed and inconsistent. She is an intelligent modern woman who is bucking the male archeological establishment, but she gushes like a schoolgirl and doesn't seem to ever really take charge of her life. I will read it again in the hopes that I am just being too harsh. I will also buy the next book in the series because Cleverly is a good writer and I believe she will get better next time.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on October 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
In 1927 wealthy Laetitia Talbot comes to Crete to sponsor a dig. Famous archeologist Theo Russell directs the patron to the Mountain of Juktas to a location he already selected where he believes THE TOMB OF ZEUS is buried. Laetitia takes an instant dislike to the pushy man, but adores his wife Phoebe.

Before going to the village of Kastelli where the team will be based for the dig, Phoebe escorts Laetitia to the ruins of Knosses where her new friend suffers a fainting spell and is brought back to her villa. There are sores all over Phoebe's legs that Laetitia believes come from wearing tight boots. Shortly afterward Phoebe is found dead in her room; an apparent suicide. Laetitia does not believe the woman killed herself, especially when she learns Phoebe was pregnant but not carrying Theo's child. Instead the site patron digs amongst the ruins of lives to uncover the murderous truth.

Readers of historical mysteries and armchair time travelers will thoroughly enjoy this wonderful whodunit. Besides the vivid look at Crete during the golden age of archeology, fans will ponder whether the heroine is wrong as there are few suspects with a motive to kill Phoebe; increasingly suicide seems right yet Laetitia stubbornly believes otherwise based on her short time with the woman. Barbara Cleverly explores the culture of Crete in great depth so that her audience can fully visualize what was back in ancient time and what was in 1927-28; an era used as a setting in modern literature for great female sleuths (Phryne Fisher and Maisie Dobbs) and now amateur sleuth fans have one more.

Harriet Klausner
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