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The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

The Messenger of Athens

by Anne Zouroudi

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2161953,956 (3.6)29

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The author’s bio speaks glowingly of her love for the Greek Islands; so I was rather expecting a light and sun-drenched mystery designed for vacation reading. What I got was better – but much darker. This story is more of an expose of all that’s wrong with island life, rather than an ode to its joys.

A young woman is found dead, her body broken at the foot of a cliff. The local police quickly judge it a suicide and thrust the matter under wraps. But then, the investigator Hermes Diaktoros (yes, like the god) arrives on the scene. It is unclear who he is working for, or what his background is – but his goal is clearly justice, and to that end, he will tease out the dirty and unpleasant secrets that lie in the hearts of the islanders.
I’m not sure exactly when the book is set – I’d guess somewhere between the 1950s and the 1970s. It has an old-fashioned feel to it which I wasn’t entirely sure was due to the time period or the remoteness and social isolation of the setting. There’s a relentlessness to the book – I began to truly feel the sense of being worn down by strict social rules and the moral condemnation of ones’ peers; the sense that an island, however lovely, is a trap, imprisoning one with the promise of a simple life and torturing one with the tedium of the sameness of days. The people here are hidebound in all the worst ways, and hope, for anyone, involves getting off the island, ‘home’ though it may be.

Don’t get me wrong – the sense of place here is wonderful. Very nice writing. The book gives an authentic-feeling glimpse into the world of the ‘locals’ of a tourist destination in the off-season. I’d recommend this to those who are fans of much of the new crop of Scandinavian crime fiction – it’s got a lot in common with many of those books, with its depiction of isolation and the insights into the shadowy side of human venality.

The truly unique aspect to these books, however, is the investigator. Hermes excuses his unusual name by claiming that his father was a classical scholar – but one cannot help but wonder if there’s more to the character than that. He’s intentionally opaque, in a very intriguing way. Is he actually an avatar of Hermes, or the arm of some kind of divine justice? At times he reminded me of an angel of vengeance. I enjoyed his character a lot – and I’ve already started the next book in the series.

Copy provided by NetGalley.

( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This was a great story with interesting and unusual characters. The ending was very dark and disturbing. I loved the descriptions of the island and I loved the Greek detective. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Nov 14, 2015 |
This was a good story. It was a little slow getting started. And the style of alternating between current and past was a bit confusing at times. But it was worth it as the ending was quite good.

The characters are very deep and you really understand how they think. The descriptions of the setting are terrific. The author paints a very vivid picture.
( )
  grandpahobo | Mar 22, 2015 |
3.5 stars
The death of Irini Asimakopoulos brings the mysterious investigator Hermes Diaktoros aka The Fat Man to the remote Greek island of Thiminos. The Fat Man doesn’t believe the official conclusion; Irini’s death was an accident. Eccentric and mysterious, in his person and investigative methods, he makes the villagers aware he will discover the truth behind Irini’s death no matter the cost.

When I began THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS I was intrigued by the seven deadly sins premise as well as the location. The island of Thiminos and its inhabitants came across, for the most part, as hard scrabble and depressing; giving a nod to the modern world while mired deeply in a dark archaic past. This curious blending of modern and ancient gives THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS an odd timeless quality. It wouldn’t have surprised me to discover one of the characters was a Greek god in disguise.
THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS is as unorthodox in its telling as The Fat Man is in his investigative technique. The Prologue met my expectations but then events slowed to a snails pace and pages were spent on minutia and rambling details past and present. The first half, while atmospheric, was a bit of a slog and I seriously considered giving a D(id)N(ot)F(inish) rating. To my delight the second half picked up the pace along with all those gossamer detail threads to bring THE MESSENGER OF ATHENS to a gratifying conclusion rich in karmic justice.

Like a Tom Holt novel, Anne Zouroudi’s Seven Deadly Sins series requires a certain mindset. Mentally prepared for the uniqueness of the telling and characters I’m looking forward to the rest of Ms. Zouroudi’s series. Hopefully I’ll discover who, exactly, the Fat Man is.
Reviewed by IvyD for Manic Readers & Miss Ivy's Book Nook ( )
  ivydtruitt | Jul 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Zouroudi has a deft way with words and an uncanny ability to create a sense of place.
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No words were lost on Hermes the Wayfinder who bent to tie his beautiful sandals on, ambrosial, golden, that carry him over water or over endless land in a swish of the wind ... A gull patrolling / between the wave crests of the desolate sea will dip to catch a fish, and douse his wings; no higher above the whitecaps Hermes flew until the distant land lay ahead .... (Homer, The Odyssey)
To Jim, whose faith never wavered
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It was the spring of the year; the air was light and bright, the alpines were in bloom.
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After the battered body of a woman is found on the Greek island of Thiminos, Athenian investigator Hermes Diaktoros inexplicably shows up to prove that the death was not an accident and find the killer. But Hermes brings mysteries of his own to this tiny, remote island.… (more)

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