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by Anne Zouroudi
Bloomsbury, June 2012
298 pages
11.99 GBP
ISBN: 1408819384

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A stranger is thrown overboard from a yacht off the Greek island of Mithros. He has neither identity documents nor money, but some people think they may have seen him before and so he is billeted temporarily with a small army unit of young recruits. Meanwhile life on the island proceeds in its timeless way until a murder occurs. Hermes Diaktoros, a detective who happens also to have just arrived on the island, begins to unravel the mysteries that may have led to the murder. His method of working is well suited to the slow tempo of island life and he is soon in a position to resolve a number of issues that have come to light.

This book gives a wonderful inside picture of Greek island life: the ramshackle houses and twisting lanes; the walls that may harbour the odd snake; the heat and the sun from which even the donkeys need shade; the fat, scented old men; the young, lazy, card-playing army recruits; the laissez faire attitude of officialdom; the dirt and the flies; and the beautifully clear sea. Each of the characters fits perfectly into this life and their actions are all absolutely in keeping with it. Their attitudes provide a picture of a life way largely untouched by the modern world. The old men's attitudes to women, for example, are a case in point.

The detective, who insinuates himself very gradually into the story, appears on first appearances to be one of a kind with these people. However his attitude is fresh and he serves to bring more modern views to challenge the old ideas. Although his method is to listen to people and seek the cause of a problem, he might sometimes be seen to suggest home-spun, rather simplistic solutions. But this approach is in keeping with the gentle nature of the book as a whole. Indeed there are some extremely perceptive sections in the book, about getting old for example.

There are one or two very small quibbles, though. The fashion for putting snippets of action at the start of a story to set the scene or to provide background can be confusing and in this case made it slightly awkward at the start to tune into the main story. And why is the detective always referred to as the fat man?

These aside, the book is a wonderfully relaxing read, perfect to create the mood for a holiday in warmer climes.

Sylvia Maughan is a retired university lecturer, based in Bristol.

Reviewed by Sylvia Maughan, July 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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