In Morrison-Topping’s debut mystery, a grieving, unstable English accountant struggles to solve a murder—and find love again.
Andrew “Red” Maccata has hit bottom. He’s depressed, boozing, hearing voices, and under an analyst’s care; he also leaves his accountancy job on his doctor’s orders. Following a program of heavy medication (and no alcohol), he heads to a Greek island to recover. The emotionally vulnerable man immediately falls under the spell of Naomi, a bewitching young Greek woman whose mangled English only adds to her allure. Naomi works in the Harbour Bar, where Maccata has docked his wrecked self. (Place and character names often have multiple meanings in this narrative.) Soon, he meets other enigmatic, beguiling, and self-reliant females, including the 60-ish Jacqueline Joanides and the irresistible tour guide Mnemosyne. He and Mnemosyne are strongly attracted to each other, but both struggle with traumatic pasts, and they dance a complex, extended emotional tango that forms the relational heart of the book. The island’s festive hue, however, turns sinister when the body of a brutally murdered man is discovered in the Harbour Bar. As the investigation unfolds, a story from Mnemosyne’s past draws Maccata to a louche Athens nightclub; at the same time, he also must deal with his own chronic memory loss and fear of love, which dog him until the story’s final, stunning revelations. Vivid details of island life and language (“ ‘Megali Evdomatha’ is upon us—Holy Week to you and me”) anchor this tale, and readers will often feel as if they’re standing on-site. Strands of Greek mythology and historical settings weave in and out of the narrative, lending it a timeless feel. Maccata’s faulty memory and auditory hallucinations make him an unreliable narrator, which will raise readers’ uncertainty and speculation at every turn. The pace, however, often languishes, particularly as readers wait for Maccata and Mnemosyne to commit to each other. This is the first installment in a planned trilogy, so tighter action may make all the difference as the story continues.
An evocative, slow-moving whodunit with seductive mythological overtones.