Book Reviews

Review Rating

With the October 2004 review, we began rating the books on the basis of one to four trowels; 
one trowel= don’t bother, to four trowels= run right out to your local book store and buy the hard cover!

Back to all reviews

The Meaning of Friday by Vanessa Gordon

Reviewed on: May 1, 2023


Dolman Scott LTD:  Thatcham, UK
2021 (PB)

Martin Day, archaeologist and television “presenter” on all things  archaeological, has recently purchased a home on the Aegean island of Naxos.  As a free-lance author of successful books on Greek archaeology, he has determined that the idyllic ambiance of the island will provide a perfect environment for his scholarly pursuits.  He has invited Helen Aitchison,  a successful novelist and platonic friend, to join him for the summer months, as she struggles through a writer’s block, which, he is certain, will be obliterated by life on the Greek island.  Throughout the novel, author Gordon lovingly describes the beauty and atmosphere of Naxos and its bucolic character.

This idyllic episode is shattered when news spreads that a professional acquaintance of Martin’s— New York University classicist Peter Moralis—was found murdered in his hotel room in Chora, the capital and main city on Naxos.  Martin offers to provide any information on Moralis that the police might find useful and thereby entangles himself into an investigation of possible multiple murders spanning more than twenty years, a missing British academic linked to Moralis, the smuggling of antiquities, and a phantom archaeological site rumored to be untouched by looters.

The twists and turns and red herrings embedded in the richly complex plot of Vanessa Gordon’s initial “Naxos mystery” are beguiling.  She deftly ties together twenty years of greed, violence, madness, and love among those caught up in the quest for a lost Mycenaean burial site.  She offers up a modern Greek tragedy, one in which good intentions are ruined and noble characters are destroyed by obsession, pride, and deceit.

Martin Day is portrayed as anything but an action hero.  He loves Greek cuisine and the more than occasional gin and tonic.  He reluctantly finds himself pulled into the intrigues of Peter Moralis’s murder and, in fact, is something of a fortyish fuddy-duddy, given to more than occasional peevishness.  In other words, the perfect anti-hero for this well-crafted mystery.  A tantalizing mystery, a lovingly-rendered portrayal of Naxos and its habitues, and a reluctant protagonist—these elements all add up to four trowels for the initial Martin Day Naxos mystery.

Twenty Years in the Trenches: Archaeology in Fiction

William Gresens, longtime MVAC supporter and volunteer, has been writing reviews of archaeological fiction as MVAC’s book reviewer for twenty years.  In this interview Bill shares how he got started writing reviews for MVAC, how the genre has changed, highlights, and his thoughts looking forward. 

Bill Gresen’s Book Review 20th Anniversary

While Bill's reviews go back 20 years now, his relationship with MVAC goes back more than twice that long! The reviews capture some of the things we enjoy most about Bill-- he's perceptive, methodical, a clear thinker, and a whole lot of fun! We look forward to this relationship--and Bill's reviews!--continuing for many years to come.

The March 2021 review marks the 20th anniversary of reviews of archaeological fiction.  It has been my pleasure and great fun to while away the hours reading these books—for the most part, at least—and writing the reviews!  My thanks to MVAC allowing me to prattle on and I look forward to the years ahead.

Bill Gresens