The horrific slaughter of a child refugee will put Chief Officer Yianis Patronas’ sworn duty to uphold the law to the supreme test.
In this timely third Greek Islands Mystery, Patronas has by now “learned far more about forensics than he wanted to know” and has earned the nickname “Poirot” from colleagues. But Patronas knows better. In solving two previous murders, “he’d been lucky; that was all.” That’s a little harsh, and in future books it would be nice to see him gain in expertise and become worthy of his nickname. Until then, he has been brought to Sifnos along with octogenarian priest Papa Michalis, now on leave from the church to work with the police department (“he was especially good at ferreting out the truth, even from the worst offenders”); bumbling Evangelos Demos (“who squealed like a pig at the sight of blood”); and Giorgos Tembelos. Patronas refers to them as “the three stooges in uniform.” But this case is no laughing matter. The young Pakistani boy—7 or 8 years old—was found by a beautiful ceramicist trussed up, drained of blood, and hung over a pit in a remote excavation site whose name, chillingly, translates in Greek to “death.” Further complicating the case is the rise of anti-refugee sentiment as embodied by Chrisi Avgi (the Golden Dawn), a violent group that may be out for revenge for the rape and murder of a Greek girl by a Pakistani. Other suspects are a visiting American professor and his three callow students who are studying ancient religions. Another chilling prospect is that the boy’s ritualistic murder could be the work of an “ena teras,” a monster reviving pagan practices. As in the first two books in the series, Serafim (When the Devil’s Idle, 2015, etc.) deftly weaves police procedural with a visceral sense of place and a deeply rooted knowledge of Greek history and culture, which is often more compelling than the actual mystery. Atheist Patronas’ interplay with Papa Michalis (“the old fellow who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes”) and the ethical dilemmas faced in dispensing justice are richly rewarding. The case weighs heavily on Patronas, who resists calls to abandon it. “Mark my words,” he is warned, “it’s going to break your heart.”
Another epitychia (success) in this Greek mystery series.