Intellectual mayhem, courtesy of renowned psychoanalyst-turned-mysterian Kristeva.
Something is rotten in Santa Varvara, a place with a Greek name and a vaguely Balkan setting but that’s full of French and English and other exotic types—for “everyone in Santa Varvara,” our journalist/sleuth narrator tells us, “was a foreigner, if not personally then at least one or two generations back.” The killer, who’s at work dispatching members of the New Pantheon, who pledge allegiance to a certain Reverend Sun, is also a foreigner, a person of firm convictions: One is that the New Pantheon is a terrorist enterprise, another is that immigration, legal or no, is the root of all modern evil. Too bad for the jet-setting scholar Sebastian Chrest-Jones, who by day is a professor of what might be called migration studies and who, the hard-hearted terminator called Number Eight reasons, is a hypocrite for having built an academic cult around multiculturalism and immigrants’ rights. Unbeknown to most of Santa Varvara, Sebastian—bearing a good Byzantine Greek name, as do most of the principal figures—is an amateur medievalist and historical novelist who has been puzzling out the Byzantine past and has solved a few mysteries along the way. Stephanie Delacour, our heroine, a journalist with a heart of tobacco-wreathed gold and a yearning for a decidedly un-Clouseau-ish old cop named Rilsky, would rather be under the dome of Hagia Sophia herself: “A foreigner and a woman, I know that I come from Byzantium, a place that has never existed with any credible reality except in my soul.” Reality can be a brutal place, though, and in between philosophical meditations on fundamentalism, immigration, political violence and such, Kristeva (Hannah Arendt, 2001, etc.) has a good time bumping off the deserving, and even a few innocents, while keeping a taut tale moving along nicely.
Readers will enjoy this concoction, which falls squarely in the Eco/Pérez-Reverte tradition of mystery with a moral. Very well done.