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Home » Books & writing

Mysterious Allure of Greece and the Greek Detective

Submitted by on April 14, 2010 – 11:51 pm 30 Comments

When Jen over at Jen’s Book Thoughts invited bloggers to participate in her Detectives Around the World theme week, I knew I wanted to write about someone from the Greek islands. Never mind that I’d never read or heard of any fictional detectives from there; I was determined to spotlight the most beautiful places I’d ever visited and I’ve been to Arkansas so that’s saying a lot.

My initial Internet research turned up several novels that took place in the years Before Christ. Pass. I wouldn’t know anything about Greek settings in those times and don’t have any pictures of ancient bath houses or the Parthenon when it was new.

Luckily, I finally discovered Anne Zouroudi‘s series about a mysterious Greek detective named Hermes Diaktoros, named after the Greek messenger god with the golden winged sandals (AKA the FTD logo). Though the first three books are already available in the U.K., with a fourth coming out this summer (Zouroudi plans seven books for the series, each covering one of the Deadly Sins), the first installment, The Messenger of Athens, doesn’t arrive in the U.S. until July from Reagan Arthur Books. It’s about time, because this unique series is a welcome addition to crime fiction.

Messenger takes place on the imaginary island of Thiminos and begins with a young woman’s battered body being found at the bottom of a cliff. The chief of police is quick to label it a suicide, but Diaktoros, an investigator from Athens who’s referred to as “the fat man,” arrives to dig more deeply into the case. No one knows who sent him, what his end game is, how he knows people’s secrets, or why he’s compulsive about keeping his tennis shoes pristinely white at all times. Though many try to avoid answering his questions, the fat man eventually unearths the real story behind the woman’s death—one which involves the Deadly Sin of lust—and administers his own brand of justice.

This novel satisfied many interests for me: mysteries, Greek mythology, and everyday life on a Greek island (more on that later). In mythology, Hermes is Zeus’s son, the messenger between the Olympian gods and humans. The fat man’s evasiveness whenever someone asks who he’s working for—coupled with other subtle clues—implies he’s not just a namesake of the god. Don’t worry if that sounds a little too mythological for you; Diaktoros is a stout, earthy presence, albeit one with slightly unusual methods of solving mysteries.

Zouroudi, who was nominated in 2008 for ITV3’s Crime Thriller Awards for Breakthrough Author of the Year, has a timeless style evocative of Agatha Christie’s, which is apropos for the setting. Thiminos is a remote island without modern trappings; life here is hard and the men are harder. Women are still considered as little more than baby producers and cooks. Irini, the victim, wanted more from life and instead ends up dead.

I mentioned earlier that this book addressed my curiosity about what it would be like to live on a Greek island. When I visited the islands in 2006, I was so overwhelmed by the beautiful vistas, I toyed with the idea of moving there (Zouroudi actually did this; she fell in love with the islands on vacation, relocated, married a Greek man and had a baby there before moving back to England). I chatted with locals about their lives and received candid answers about their struggles when tourist season is over. Zouroudi provides even more insight about the day-to-day existence, how being island-bound can breed despair in some people and fear of leaving it in others, how the landscape can be breathtaking yet harsh, how the old buildings I found gorgeous on the outside can be damp and drafty inside during the winter.

Reading Messenger of Athens (and about Greece’s recent bankruptcy troubles) may have deterred me from Greek-island living for now, but I still feel the pull of the splendor I found there. Since that beauty partly motivated Zouroudi to write this series, I thought I’d share some personal snapshots in the slideshow below to illustrate what captivated both my and Zouroudi’s heart. The book’s Thiminos isn’t real so my pictures are from Mykonos and Santorini, two of the prettier islands I visited. Maybe the photos will entice you to travel there someday or at least start reading the Greek Detective series.

For more on Detectives Around the World, be sure and visit Jen’s Book Thoughts.

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30 Comments »

  • jenforbus says:

    Wow! I definitely have to get this book, PCN. I’ve always loved Greek mythology, so I’ll be interested to see how it influences the book. Diaktoros also sounds fascinating. Your description made me think of Kubu, Michael Stanley’s detective in Africa, because of his uniqueness.

    And the pictures! Holy Moly! My freshman year in college my English prof turned me on to ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, still one of my all-time favorite books and I loved my prof…her husband was Greek, and after my freshman year, they left the U.S. to move to Mykonos. I always wondered about it. It does look stunning.

    Thanks so much. This is absolutely fabulous.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I was fascinated by Greek mythology while in school. The stories are so outrageous and entertaining. Loved CUCKOO’S NEST, too. The movie may have won busloads of Oscars but the book was even better.

      I don’t know Kubu but the fat man is definitely unique. He’s very polite but there’s a sense you do NOT want to cross him.

      Thanks for coming up with this great theme week and letting me contribute!

  • Naomi Johnson says:

    Since I was a child I’ve wanted to visit the Greek islands. Your pictures have really stirred the wanderlust in my heart. Windmills. Huh, who’d a thunk it?

  • Novelwhore says:

    Ok for some reason my computer is not loading your pictures and I’m very disappointed because I wanted to live vicariously through you!

    Maybe all of us readers/bloggers could rent a house on the Greek Islands together! And lay by the pool (or on a yacht) and enjoy the scenery while we read books that take place there! Other than this series, doesn’t Ann Brashares’ YA SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS have a Greek connection?

    You’re always opening our eyes to new things, PCN!

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Hope you’ll check out the slideshow when you get home. Like lp13 said, I think it’s just your work computer being blocked.

      Yes, Traveling Pants takes place partly on Santorini. I saw that movie and booked my trip. No joke.

      I’m all for us renting a villa on a Greek island to hang out and read books!

  • Kay says:

    This is truly lovely. The pictures are just wonderful. I have not read a mystery series set in Greece, but this one really picqued my interest. And why does he want to keep his tennis shoese pristine? LOL Thanks for highlighting it and I will add it to my list.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      The author never explains the tennis shoes compulsion, at least not in this book, but I got the impression that since Diaktoros is actually Hermes the messenger god, his footwear is important to him.

      Thanks for stopping by, Kay!

  • le0pard13 says:

    Fine review and pictorial, PCN. It certainly makes me want to go there. Thanks for this.

    NovelWhore: I know if I’ve tried to view some of PCN’s slideshows from work, it never works. I think we block certain feeds on our network.

  • Christine says:

    My sister and her husband took a “barefoot” cruise through the Greek Isles for their honeymoon. I remember just being in awe over their photos, just as I was over your slideshow!!!

    Adding another book to my TBR list, thanks for the review, PCN!

    Ooh, and I love Novelwhore’s idea of renting a house! Got a brand new passport just waiting for some place to go! It could be the first stop on DATW, the tour! 😉

  • EIREGO says:

    Greece, Ireland, Italy and Paris (just that city, not all of France) have always been on my To Visit list. I made it to Italy and Greece, but still haven’t made it to the other two.

    Will pick up a copy of Messenger of Athens when it comes out to revisit in my mind and if I get hooked on the series, all the better.

    Beautiful slide show.

  • ScriptPimp says:

    Wow! Just freakin’ WoW!

    I wanted to go there after seeing a cheesy movie called Summer Lovers with Peter Gallagher and Daryl Hannah. The cinematography was awesome. Made me want to quit college and just go there. Thankfully, I was convinced by my peers to at least wait until I got my degree. Maybe this is why I finished early?

    Anyway, loved Mykonos and Santorini. Took a glass bottom boat ride to a volcano with a bunch of ancient locals on some pilgrimage to the top. Despite the language barrier, we sang Beatles songs while hanging our feet over the side. It was magical.

    Even if the island in the book is fictitious, I know reading it will give me a recurring heavy sigh of longing.

    Thanks, PCN!

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      I know that cheesy movie you’re talking about! I fast-forwarded through all the bad acting and just drooled over the scenery.

      I took a glass bottom boat tour, too. Stunning. Did you jump in the hot springs?

  • Reader#9 says:

    I’m scrolling through your slideshow and all of a sudden you have Colin Firth?! You are so crazy, PCN. Loved the chuckle it gave me though.

    Beautiful pictures and a wonderful recap of what appears to be a good read. Okay, added to the stack.

  • Donna says:

    Aha! A new series to read! Yay! And the pictures? OMG! Beyond words for me! I love reading ancient history; non-fiction or fiction. Wetting tip of pencil to add this to my TBR list. Thanks, Elyse!

  • I was so smitten with your slideshow, I had to read your post again to remember what I was going to say. You take beautiful photos, PCN. I know, I know, you have something nice to work with, but even so… and extra points for the gratuitous Colin Firth shot.

    As for this book, it sounds wonderful! For some reason, Hercule Poirot popped into my head when you mentioned the fat man so I smiled when you went on to say Zouroudi’s style is evocative of Agatha Christie’s.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Thanks, Shell! Coming from a gifted artist, that’s saying a lot.

      Hercule Poirot & Agatha Christie both came to mind while I was reading this. Then I learned that Zouroudi started with Christie’s books when she began reading crime fiction.

  • Loved the pictures. I have an ARC of the book, and those pictures make me want to read it even more. So, you haven’t read Jeffrey Siger’s Murder in Mykonos and Assassins of Athens? Murder in Mykonos takes place in all of the churches. I think you’ll love the descriptions from an author who actually did move to Greece.

    • Pop Culture Nerd says:

      Hi Lesa!

      I found out about Siger’s books only recently, after I’d already started this review. I thought about swapping books because Murder in Mykonos would tie in directly with my pics but I’m happy to feature Zouroudi’s series. The fat man is an intriguing character and I look forward to the other Greek Detective adventures.

      I’m going to check out Siger’s books, too. Did you review them?

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