In Peter Tonkin’s new novel, the third instalment of The Trojan Murders series, Odysseus greets King Euenos and asks, “Do you remember me?” The answer is yes. This is a world we are familiar with, a well-trod path through history and literature. But using this beloved setting as backdrop to such a an innovative and gripping narrative creation is far the author’s only stroke of genius.
Princess Briseis, sole Royal survivor of Lyrnessus’ downfall, is the lynchpin of this novel. Fallen victim to Prince Aias’ lust, she faces an impossible choice – death or dishonour. Briseis turns on Achilles. Accused of a grave and indefensible crime, Achilles seeks the aid of Odysseus, and so the scene is set. Like all great mysteries, the reader has their question: whodunnit?
Tonkin meshes the worlds of mystery and history effectively to create something engaging for the reader. What pulls the novel together is the remarkable world-building skills that the author deploys. The world of Lyrnessus is built up around the action like the stage of a play and the reader is steadily immersed into the mystery as the plot is driven forward.
This unique take on The Iliad is unlike anything I’ve read. It uproots certain traditions and creates something entirely unexpected in its place. The focus of the narrative shifts, as does its trajectory, and yet we never stray too far away from the Homeric world. Odysseus is redirected rather than completely transported, but Tonkin injects the refreshing tone of something new and exciting into a realm that readers are acquainted with.
The third instalment of The Trojan Murders may be the best so far. The novel offers exactly what you expect from a mystery: the unexpected.