Greek-Scot missing persons specialist Alex Mavros, whose fourth case (The Silver Stain, 2012) raced from one felony to the next with reckless abandon, goes even further in his fifth, reaching all the way back to the rituals of Demeter to root his latest discoveries in Greece’s sordid almost-present.
Angela Poulou isn’t exactly close to her husband, wealthy businessman Paschos Poulou. So, instead of asking him if he has any idea what might have happened to their missing daughter Lia, she lets three months pass without hearing a hint of a ransom demand and then hires Alex, warning him that he can’t question any of Lia’s friends or anyone who might know anything about the case. It’s a decision that’s not only baffling, but perilous, since Alex’s previous adventures have been more notable for multiplying rather than resolving mayhem. And so it goes again, this time against the backdrop of the 2004 Athens Olympics. Alex soon links Lia’s disappearance, at least to his own satisfaction, to pagan sacrificial rituals, contemporary smuggling, a ring of child molesters so well-connected that they’re untouchable, and a series of grisly murders whose victims are marked by carefully placed pomegranate seeds. Since readers know as well as Alex who’s committing these murders—a vengeful assassin dubbed the Son with whom he’s already tangled, at some cost to them both—the leading mystery is whether Johnston will tie these monstrous crimes together to the satisfaction of anyone but Alex.
“Ancient artifacts and modern underage girls,” sniffs Alex’s old friend Yiorgos Pandazopoulous, aka the Fat Man. If that combination sets your heart racing, Alex is your man.