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Margaret Doody is a professor of literature at the University of Notre Dame. She is also the author of The True Story of the Novel and is currently working on a new 'Aristotle' novel.
Named one of the Big Ten Outstanding Books from University Presses for 2006 by ForeWord magazine For Margaret Doody, Venice, poised between East and West, earth and sea, sacred and profane, occupies a place only its own. Appearances confound. Renaissance ladies achieved their blond beauty by crimping and dyeing their hair in urine. The richly ornamented facades of its buildings mask lighter structures based on wood pilings ultimately floating on clay and water. Marble is intimate with mud. In Doody's Venice, the holy is never far from the sensual, the earthy and carnal. Though the city's patron is one of the four Evangelists, enshrined in the glorious basilica that bears his name, she reminds us that according to legend the body of Saint Mark was transported to Venice hidden in a mound of pork. With a novelist's eye for quirky anecdote and rich detail, with a connoisseur's eye for the secrets hidden in the cut of a sleeve or the corner of a painting, Doody summons the Venice of Carpaccio, Titian, and Canaletto, of Goldoni and Casanova. She draws on comments from the myriad travelers, contented or grumbling, from the Middle Ages to the present, men and women who have by turns been seduced and disturbed by the city. If she is hard-pressed to find a single golden age in Venetian history, she has no difficulty in locating the city's low point in the tragic nineteenth century. When the once proudly independent republic fell to a foreign power, its joy largely ceased, and it became the melancholy and somewhat sinister place evoked in the writings of Byron, George Sand, Gautier, Dickens, and others. Venice as death's city persists into the twentieth century in the works of Henry James and Thomas Mann. Only in the twenty-first century, she suggests, might we escape that dark nineteenth-century vision of a city once associated with glowing color and joyful music. Bride of the Adriatic, a city of golden light and shimmering reflection rising out of seaweed and slime, Venice has long held travelers and dreamers, rogues, painters, and writers in its sway. Why are we so drawn to the place? What would be lost were Venice to cease to exist? In Tropic of Venice Doody explores the multiple ways in which this is a perturbingly exciting and unique city-and a place that simultaneously unsettles and reveals many of our most deeply rooted cultural values.
In the winter of 330-329 BC Athens itself suffers a series of alarming thefts and home robberies. It seems that nobody is safe. The great philosopher Aristotle helps his former student Stephanos investigate a break- in and brutal murder at the house of one of his Athenian neighbours. The man fingered for the crime turns against Stephanos just as he is planning his marriage. It is difficult to arrange a big fat Greek wedding when someone seems to be trying to kill you. Elsewhere bodies begin to pile up--who will be bludgeoned or stabbed or strangled next? Stephanos' bride is Philomela. Her parental home is Eleusis, famous for the Sanctuary of Demeter and Persephone, home of the sacred site of the Mysteries of Eleusis. Religious initiation is open to all adult Greek speakers, slave and free, with the exception of anyone guilty of homicide. Stephanos, Philomela and Aristotle undertake mystic initiation in a complex ritual whose ultimate secrets cannot be spoken, on pain of death. Eleusis conceals many secrets, and revelation of the truth must await the night of the Mystery celebration itself. This is the fifth novel featuring Aristotle as the first detective of the ancient world, following Aristotle Detective, Aristotle and Poetic Justice, The Secrets of Life and Poison In Athens.
It is 330 B. C. The Macedonian Alexander the Great has conquered Asia Minor but now his armies are far from Athens, and those who support Athenian independence are beginning to chafe and plot against him. Foreigners, like Aristotle, and those suspected of befriending foreigners, such as Stephanos, are threatened. A series of threats persuade these two that they will be best served quitting the mainland for a while and so they both find suitable excuses: Aristotle has to transport a sick student home to Rhodos, while Stephanos must find a relative of his bride-to-be Philomela to clear up an inheritance dispute. With a varied cast of travellers they set sail across the Aegean to the sacred Isle of Delos, to Mykonos and beyond to the coast of Asia Minor. There they will soon be embroiled in investigating conspiracy and murder. But first they must survive life on the high seas where storms and piracy honour no man, least of all the greatest philosopher who has ever lived.
330BC: it is the year that Alexander the Great sacked Persepolis and won the greatest fortune the world had ever known. The night of the Silent Dinner when Athens placates the spirits of the dead passes with a creeping mist accompanied by eerie portents and a strange disappearance. Stephanos, son of Nikiarkhos and his teacher, the philosopher Aristotle, are drawn into solving the perplexing abduction case of Anthia, the heiress of a prominent silver merchant. Someone has snatched her from her home, but what is the motive: rape, a forced marriage or murder? All that is known is that the abductor and the heiress are on the road to Delphi and its ancient oracle. Stephanos and Aristotle pursue them but along the way there are plenty of distractions: it's spring time and the country is full of reborn life, the thought of romance and marriage is never far from young Stephanos' mind, and rumours of mysterious strangers passing in the night abound, of disguises and swapping of identity. Then the actuality of murder shatters the idyll. It seems that there is a psychopath on the road pursuing abductor and heiress. But who the abductor is and who the murderer is are mysteries that only Aristotle with the aid of the Delphian oracle will be able to solve.
Athens, 332BC - an unhappy city under the rule of the Macedonian 'barbarian' Alexander the Great. In the midst of this unrest, Boutades, an eminent citizen, is found brutally murdered. Suspicion falls heavily on young Philemon, and, by Athenian law, his cousin Stephanos is elected to defend his name in court. In desperation, Stephanos seeks assistance from Aristotle, his former mentor - and Aristotle turns Detective. The young, inexperienced boy and the great philosopher form a classically uneven partnership. Their efforts culminate in the gripping trial scene when Stephanos uses all the powers of rhetoric and oratory instilled in him by Aristotle to clear his family's name of this bloody murder-