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by Emma Lathen
Pocket Books, June 1985
266 pages
$out of print
ISBN: 0671825046

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Emma Lathen is the pen name of two women, Mary J. Latis and Martha Hennissart, who write mysteries taking place in the financial world. Their series features John Putnam Thatcher, the Executive Vice President of Wall Street's Sloan Guaranty Trust, who doubles as an amateur detective. I had read one of Lathen's books years ago, but didn't appreciate it at the time.

Deciding to read a second one, I picked WHEN IN GREECE because I'm quite familiar with the subject matter. WHEN IN GREECE starts with the beginning of the Colonels' Dictatorship, a time when Sloan Guaranty Trust is in the early stages of a three-way partnership with another commercial company and the Greek Government for an expensive economic development project. Important decisions remain to be made, and Sloan is represented in Greece by a junior executive, Kenneth Nicolls. Amid the confusion of the military coup, Nicolls tries to get back to Athens from Salonika. In the train station a Greek leftist introduces himself and the two exchange cards. Then the leftist is shot to death and some soldiers start herding anyone having contact with him into a truck. Nicolls fears for his life. During an earthquake he escapes, but then finds himself in unfamiliar territory and soon learns that, in addition to the military, some unidentified group is pursuing him up and down Greece.

The Sloan company only knows that Nicolls is missing and his hotel room in Athens has been searched twice. Now enters the delightful character, senior executive Everett Gabler, whom Thatcher sends to Athens to get to the bottom of things. If you remember the late British actor Robert Morley, you can easily visualize Gabler. If not, well, Gabler is a literal-minded, pompous, never-say-die, irascible, highly intelligent, pit-bull-terrier stickler for detail; that is, he's full of sang-froid and "militant propriety." Give him a job to get done, and never mind the rain, sleet, snow, hurricane, tornado, erupting volcano that may lie in his path, he'll do it, although he might grumble a bit at the quality of the tea in the restaurants along the way. Oops, shortly after his arrival in Athens, Everett is kidnapped.

John Putnam Thatcher decides to handle the situation himself and flies to Greece. Everett, thanks to his own ingenuity, escapes the leftists who had kidnapped him, and he joins his boss, Thatcher. As more details become known, the mystery increases.

I liked the story and I would have read to the end regardless of what direction it took from here. But I confess that with Thatcher on the scene I read even faster because I was mighty curious as to whether the most interesting Everett would continue to be prominently featured in the book or if it would be all Thatcher from now on. It turned out to be an acceptable compromise with Thatcher taking the lead and Everett Gabler acting as his Watson. However, I would have preferred much more to have the indefatigable Everett on his own, but at least he was not left behind.

Once Thatcher figures out what has really been going on, he devises a ploy to trump the evil ones. Along the way Thatcher and Gabler, who seem to be of Social Security age, pick up two quite helpful women, American archeologists who are probably of Social Security age, to provide a little geriatric love interest along with the plot.

I'm handicapped in reviewing this particular book because my seven years in Greece have conditioned me to be picky-picky on the subject. I look for an accuracy that is unreasonable to expect to find from writers who seem to have spent not much more than several weeks in the country. So I'll forbear this type of criticism and just say that I liked the book in general, but others may like it even better than I. In particular, however, I thought the character of Everett Gabler was superbly drawn, and I only wish he had been featured more. I hope to come across him again in other books by Emma Lathen.

Reviewed by Eugene Aubrey Stratton, August 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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