Walker Books Australia (2013)
ISBN: 978 1 922077 94 3
Reviewed by Pearl Maya
Murder at Mykenai by Catherine Mayo is in many ways a book about location and time. Set in Ancient Greece, it follows the dramatic friendship of two teenage boys, Odysseus and Menelaos. The world of the Greeks certainly lends itself to some of the ways the story plays about but in many ways it could just have easily been set in feudal England, or with a few more tweaks, at the time of colonisation. I could also imagine it being told as the story between rival sporting clubs, gangs or something similar in modern times.
In many ways Mayo has demonstrated that people are people and friendship is friendship no matter what the time period and while the setting certainly provides some unique opportunities for how the story plays out, it doesn’t get away from the very human story that is being told. That in itself could be a catalyst for young people in their own creative writing.
It is also a great example of how to integrate research to help tell a story – what did people wear, or eat, how did they get around, what did people do for fun? The minutiae of real life adds depth and color to the book.
There is an incidence of sexual abuse/male rape that reveals itself about three quarters of the way through that I thought was unnecessary, not because it shouldn’t be discussed or that it wasn’t appropriate for the audience but because it appeared to be there for shock value only and the story could just have easily been told without it. Nor did it serve the purpose of educating the reader of what to do should they, or a friend, experience the same. However that is a very small part of the book lasting only a page and there isn’t any specific details, and shouldn’t prejudice someone from recommending the book to a teenage reader. Whether it is suitable for much younger readers would depend on those who know them best. If you were reading the book aloud to a younger audience, it would be really easy to skip this bit and just refer to it as an “attack”.
Mayo’s book has much to recommend it – it is a very easy read, a dramatic storyline and features characters that are easy to relate to.