****48. – 608.) The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi – Since Greece is the origin of classic myths it is appropriate that Zouroudi creates a modern myth set on the island of Thiminos.
Irina Asimakopoulos has died and the local police are indifferent. Suicide is presumed and the file closed until Hermes Diaktoro, the fat man, arrives to re-open the case. Was her death suicide or murder?
It should not have been a myth but I found that I had presumed life was as idyllic on the Greek isles as in the village of Three Pines in the rural Quebec mysteries of Louise Penny. I expect I was unduly influenced by the beautiful photos and posters of Greece that fill the world. I know the movie, Mama Mia, reinforced that myth. My self-created myth was shaken, if not shattered, by the descriptions of Thiminos in winter. It is a bleak place with miserable weather. Its people live in cold crumbling stone houses. Life is a struggle with the tourists gone until summer. I was depressed by the grimness of winter life on Thiminos.
The people of Thiminos live in a small world with rigid social rules. As in the distant days of the Greek gods these islanders breach the norms at their peril. I grew up in Saskatchewan near a small village and live in a city of a few thousand people. Thankfully my real life neighbours are far different than the insular islanders.
It is a challenge seeking information in a closed society. The people of Thiminos guard their secrets from non-islanders. Yet the fat man, with genial persistence, gradually learns of Irinia’s troubled life. The tension builds carefully as the details of Irinia’s life unfold.
The book comes alive as the author alternates between the current investigation of Hermes and the past with the islanders, including Irinia, talking about their lives.
There is a robust, even mythic, presentation of passion that is far more powerful than the descriptions of physical coupling customarily presented in fiction for passion.
It is rare that the means of dying shock me but I was startled by the cruelty of Irinia’s death.
It is a lovely book even if it has discouraged from considering visiting the Greek islands outside summer. Hardcover or paperback. (Aug. 27/11)