See Delphi and Die is a murder mystery starring one of my favorite sleuths, Marcus Didius Falco. The latest in a series of mysteries set in ancient Rome during the rule of Vespasian. The hero, Falco, is a private investigator who often works for the emperor as an informer. His adventures take you all over the empire from Britain to Gaul to Asia Minor. This installment, as the name implies, carries our hero and his motley crew to Greece. The books are full of the colorful minutia of daily life in the ancient world and if it weren’t for some unfortunate adult subject matter would be an excellent way to supplement kid’s studies. .Sadly, I would definitely limit them to adults because they definitely probe into the seamier side of Roman life.
The second book, The Kite Runner, was recommended to me last fall by one of my students at Montserrat. I wrote down the title and meant to look it up, but got distracted. Then I saw it mentioned recently by Steven Riddle at the Flos Carmeli blog and decided it was finally time to read it. Decidedly more serious and sober than the Falco book, this is the story of a man who grew up in Afghanistan and then emigrated to the US as a teenager. He returns to his native country as an adult to settle with his past and make amends. It is a story of sin and redemption set against the backdrop of a country I must confess I know very little about. I liked the book most of all because of the window into a different culture and an exotic place. As I read I was never sure whether I was supposed to like the narrator/protagonist or not. He is a tormented soul and thus I suppose a fitting icon for that tormented country. The novel does have a hopeful ending; though I won’t go into that too much. (An interesting note, in the book he mentions how Afghani culture is the opposite, everyone wants to know ho whte movie will end, if the hero finds love or dies unhappily.) There is some really tough material in this novel, I’d not recommend it for the faint of heart. But it was very interesting to read a story of sin and redemption told from a Muslim perspective. Perhaps that was the reason I kept feeling a little on edge, the narrative was subtly disturbing, like a little whine at the limit of my hearing: seeing the world from a Islamic point of view. Not bad, just different, unsettling.
Next up: one of my batch of birthday books, Great Heresies. An interesting follow-on since Belloc considers Islam a heresy.