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ASHES
by Sergios Gakas and Anne-Marie Stanton-Ife, trans.
Maclehose Press, July 2011
320 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0857050168


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Police Colonel Chronis Halkidis is assigned to Internal Affairs, but when he hears that ex-lover Sonia Varika has been very badly burned in an arson attack, he calls in a favour to ensure he is assigned to the case. He soon discovers that Sonia's place of residence is owned by Simeon Piertzovanis, also romantically linked to Sonia, and that the three others killed in the same attack included an African immigrant and her child. It is prejudice against the latter that seems to lie behind a series of attacks which culminated in the arson, but as investigations proceed it becomes clear that the attackers were merely front men for investors seeking to secure a redevelopment site. Some very important men are involved, but with the assistance of Simeon, Chronis eventually finds a way to resolve the case to his satisfaction.

The unravelling of the case proceeds fairly briskly, refreshingly free of the lengthy speculation, laying of false trails, etc, so tiresome in much detective fiction. Instead the author provides a counterpoint through passages, given in italics, where the two chief characters recall episodes from their time with Sonia. Simeon was abandoned by Sonia, Chronis left her when he was unable to cope with her addiction to alcohol, but both are haunted by the guilt they feel for failing to meet her needs and nostalgia for the time each spent with her. The snatches of dialogue from the past are convincingly random and provide a believable basis for the emotional turmoil of both parties and their determination to discover the ultimate culprits behind the crime.

Their emotional stress is also underlined by their substantial alcohol intake, in Chronis' case supplemented with a range of narcotics. While it is traditional to have a detective resorting to pain-killers of this sort, eyebrows might be raised at the idea of a senior member of a major urban police force following suit, nor would they be likely to help him do his job. The same eyebrows will probably rise even higher at the indications given throughout the book that corruption amongst Greek police, businessmen and politicians is widespread and endemic. Ethical standards are not perfectly met anywhere, but the idea that multiple murder would be so easily brushed under the carpet is truly breathtaking. Hopefully, Gakas is exaggerating for effect.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, December 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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