Art history, archaeology and crime

Two gifts from my dear friend from studies. She knows I love good crime and she studied with me so obviously she knows I am still interested by the art and academia world, even if I no longer actively participate in it. The two books were perfect gift, I devoured both of them in one week with pure pleasure.

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‘Głowa Niobe’/’Niobe’s Head’ is a story of art history conference dedicated to a collection of ancient sculpture in Nieborów (an actual palace and museum). It is winter, an international group of researchers descends on the palace and the conference begins. With all typical organizational issues and personal animosities. Overnight the snowfall cut the palace from the outer world and the first body, or rather head is found replacing a head of marble sculpture. Our main character is an arrogant anthropologist Mario Ybl, invited to the conference to talk about the sculpture’s anatomy, instead he gets to talk about real dead bodies. His arrogant and cynical attitude makes him more and more enemies by the second. We have here a typical plot similar to Agatha Christie, her books are actually directly referenced in this one. The plot thickens, new body is discovered daily, no one is safe and everyone is a suspect. Deliciously great entertainment.

The second book ‘Czytanie z Kości/’Reading the Bones’ was written by one of those people who on one hand inspire admiration, on the other envy and on the third (if only it was possible to have three hands!) make me feel like I’ve been wasting my life doing nothing. Jakub Szamałek is two years younger than me, he just turned 30 last year and he managed to study in Oxford, do a PhD in Cambridge (archaeology of the Mediterranean), get Gates scholarship, work as a script writer for computer games,  win the award for best Polish crime in 2011 and be among 100 leaders in Central and Eastern Europe in 2014 according to Google and Financial Times. It really makes me wonder about my life choices and the way I spent my last 30 years (I assume we all deserve at least three years of childhood). And in all of this I don’t even gt the satisfaction of saying the book was crap. It’s not. Two storylines one in 5th century BC, one in 2015. Murder investigation, archaeology, ancient history, politics, intrigues, great descriptions of Etruscan habits. Yes, I know I sound a bit nerdy, but I loved it. The characters are interesting, plot keeps good pace and I only guessed who is the killer few pages before the end. It was fun and a reminder that despite the words ‘ancient history’ sounding mainly of dust and old paper those were the stories of real people full of life and feelings like we are now, it’s good to keep it in mind especially in a boring archaeological museum 😉

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One thought on “Art history, archaeology and crime

  1. Pingback: January round-up – bookskeptic.com

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