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 Search for Artemis by Vanessa Gordon

Reviewed on: August 1, 2023


Dolman Scott LTS:  Thatcham, UK
2021 (pb)

Eighty-year-old Edward Childe, professor emeritus of history from King’s College, Cambridge University has contacted Martin Day, free-lance archaeologist, to collaborate on a public history television production linking 19th century British travelers in Greece with ancient and contemporary sculptors of Greek marble. 

While Day is still engrossed in a research project concerning archaeologist Nikos Elias and a recently re-discovered Mycenean burial site (see review of The Meaning of Friday), he entertains the idea and invites Childe to his idyllic new home on the Cycladic Island of Naxos.  Childe brings another Naxos resident into the project:  famed sculptor Konstantinos Saris, with whom Childe had collaborated on a project many years earlier.

In a moment of relaxation, Childe tells Day the story of a love affair he had in 1959 with a beautiful young artist sketching the ruins at the Temple of Artemis in the Greek village of Brauron.  The passionate affair with the lovely and aptly named Artemis ended abruptly when she simply disappeared.  Now, some sixty years later, Childe had received a letter from Angelica Spetzou, granddaughter of Childe’s long-lost love Artemis.  Angelica had recently discovered references to the love affair in her recently deceased grandmother’s diaries, and she wished to meet Childe in Athens at his convenience.

What follows is a descent into darkness and murder as Edward Childe, after an apparently delightful meeting with his one-time lover’s granddaughter, is found murdered in his Athens hotel room.  At nearly the same point in time, a series of increasingly violent break-ins at Konstantinos Saris’s marble atelier, or studio, appear to threaten the old artist’s very existence.  Are the break-ins related to the murder of Edward Childe?  Is Angelica at the center of the attacks or an innocent foil of a deadly villain.

Much to the displeasure of both the police and his good friend, author Helen Aitchison, Martin feels morally obligated to puzzle out the answers to these assaults on Naxos’s peaceful ambience.  His investigations lead him to answers that are to be found very much in the present and decades in the past and the lovely Artemis may be the key to those answers.

As was the case in the first volume in this series, The Meaning of Friday, the mystery to be solved is engaging and perplexing, but much of the delight in reading the “Naxos mysteries” is the lovingly rendered portrait of the Cycladic Islands presented by author Gordon.  The wonderfully evocative descriptions of life on Naxos, whether it be the beauty of a sunset over the Aegean Sea or the rustic cuisine and libations, add immeasurably to the pleasure of reading these mysteries.  Four trowels for The Search for Artemis.

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