Today’s subject for Down the Stacks is… average. Murder on Olympus by Robert B. Warren mixes standard modern Private Investigator tropes with Greek Mythology and doesn’t take many chances.
Read on if you wish.
Murder on Olympus concerns one Plato Jones, a private investigator living a modern-day Greece that just so happens to be ruled over by Zeus and the rest of the Greek pantheon and which is full of classic mythological beings such as gorgons, minotaurs, giants, saytrs, and Hercules. Plato used to work for the Olympic Bureau of Investigation until he grew disillusioned with the general jerkiness of the Gods and their casual disdain for mortal opinions. But now, between handling such standard PI cases such as finding missing property and spying on cheating spouses while fielding calls from his own overly clingy ex-wife, Plato finds himself being pressured by Hermes to look into a most baffling case: supposedly immortal Gods are being murdered. Plato couldn’t care less, but the Gods don’t take “no” for an answer.
There really isn’t much good to say about Murder on Olympus except that it does exactly what it sets out to do. It hits all the notes for a murder mystery being investigated by a world-weary and unabashed cynic of a PI. Plato’s narration is clear and well-matched to his character, which is able to stare the likes of Zeus and Hades in the eye and never flinch.
What bothers me most about Murder on Olympus is the world that Warren has built around his plot. It just doesn’t seem to fit together right. The Gods rule, Greek Mythology creatures are a fairly common sight, and there are plenty of made-up locations, but otherwise the world seems far too normal, far too well-matched to reality for a world where Zeus and company actually exist and should have had profound influences on the development of culture. The Gods themselves are uniformly selfish and arrogant, each in their own way, just as advertised, but there are not enough likable characters to balance things out, nor do any of those likable characters aside from Hercules have an identifiable stake in seeing the mystery be solved. Plato only works the case because he’s bullied into it, and I found myself sharing his opinion that there was no good reason to care whether or not someone had found a way to bring the Gods down a few pegs.
The book isn’t terrible, but it’s not a big winner either. There’s at least one sequel, but I’m not going to bother with it. If the first book can’t make me care about the world enough, I doubt a second foray is going to do much better.