All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Honourable Thief by Meaghan Wilson Anastasios

on September 5, 2018

The Honourable Thief 
Meaghan Wilson Anastasios
Pan Macmillan AUS
2018, 430p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

‘Achilles? Because…?’
‘Obsession of mine. Half man, half god – and his own worst enemy.
My kind of man.’ He laughed.

Istanbul, Turkey 1955.

Benedict Hitchens, once a world-renowned archaeologist, is now a discredited – but still rather charming – shell of his former self.

Once full of optimism and adventure, his determination to prove that Achilles was a real historical figure led him to his greatest love, Karina, on the island of Crete and to his greatest downfall, following the disappearance of an enigmatic stranger, Eris.

He has one last chance to restore his reputation, solve the mystery of Eris and prove his Achilles theory. But it is full of risk, and possibly fatal consequences…

I’m not quite sure how to start with this book. Firstly….I think the idea is good. Benedict Hitchens is an archeologist of some skill, knowledgable of the best areas to dig. He has made many amazing discoveries and is often the source of jealousy from colleagues who are less successful. But now his credibility is shot after he made the decision to follow a woman off a train to her home to see her vast array of antiquities. The woman and the collection vanished and although Benedict had sketched and described them, there were no photographs. He has little knowledge of the woman and the police (and journalists, and the world) seem to regard it as little more than a desperate fantasy in order to help his claim that Achilles was real, rather than mythical. Benedict needs to find that woman again, restore his name and credibility and prove his findings.

But unfortunately there were quite a few things that I struggled with, reading this book. Firstly, I found the constant jumping back and forth in time confusing and unnecessary. A lot of the jumps back and forth are very small gaps in time and it just served to pull me out of the story and then I’d have to refocus. I know that a non-linear narrative can work but for me, if it’s jolting you out of the story constantly and if the time frames are in the same place and honestly, not that far apart then it’s not really worth it or necessary. I think I’d just have preferred to meet present-day disgraced Benedict and then go back in time to show how he got to that state. Rather than leaping back and forth almost constantly over the course of the novel. Also it took me quite a while to really pick up the threads of the plot because of this constant jumping and it was 100p in and I still wasn’t really sure what was happening and when the story was going to actually get going.

Benedict himself. He seems to have lived a pretty interesting life. He’s American, from money, but he shunned the family expectations to study archeology at university in England (Oxford I think?) and he’s been quite successful even though this book shows that he’s also not above a bit of underhanded cheating in order to further his own game. I’m honestly not sure if the reader is supposed to like him. Sometimes I think he’s being presented as this loveable larrikin down on his luck – or an attempt at that. But although I found him intelligent and determined, I didn’t really like him as a character. For someone who is so intelligent, he does do some very questionable things and he thinks far too often with parts of his anatomy not really designed for thinking. I found a lot of the attitudes more modern than I was expecting for 1950s Turkey and Benedict finds no lack of female company despite his mourning for his wife, the apparent love of his life.

Once the story did get going for me, I quite enjoyed the search for credibility of Benedict’s Achilles theory. I don’t know a lot about mythology, or ancient civilisations, they’re something I enjoy reading about in fiction but my factual knowledge is definitely lacking. However the detail in this was very thorough and felt authentic and I really liked the Greek and Turkish settings. The digs felt very realistic and the idea of competing for glory and important finds was very believable. Benedict had seemed a very ‘lucky’ person, making numerous finds using his skill and a sort of sixth sense for where to dig before his fall from grace and it seemed that a lot of those who had been jealous took a bit of pleasure in his downfall. And to be honest, it’s not really that difficult to discredit Benedict and he doesn’t too himself too many favours afterwards, drowning in alcohol. I was really curious to see what had actually happened to Eris and why on earth she’d allowed him back to her home to see this amazing collection and where it was all going. As the book built towards answers, the pace was actually quite well done and the archeological detail impressive.

So all in all, this was a bit of a mixed bag I’m afraid. Lots of potential and some exciting parts but the first part of the book was a struggle for me and the constant jumping in the narrative was frustrating.



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