The first entry in playwright/screenwriter Markaris’s police-procedural trilogy confronts a weary Athens homicide chief with a host of dead journalists and Albanians.
“Two dead Albanians is of interest to no one but the TV channels,” confides Inspector Costas Haritos. Homicide’s job is limited to leaning on a third Albanian until he confesses to avoid further trouble, and then leaning on him some more because his perfectly straightforward confession conflicts with details of the crime hinted by pushy reporter Yanna Karayoryi, of the Hellas Channel. Haritos’s further inquires don’t reconcile the two stories, but they turn up some interesting new details—the dead couple were sitting on half-a-million drachmas, for instance—and they get Karayoryi killed herself. The impaling of a TV reporter is much bigger news than a couple of Albanian stiffs, of course, especially to the Hellas bosses, who insist on exclusive access to the inquiry and threaten to expand their 24/7 coverage by tattling to their ministerial contacts if they don’t get it. For better or worse, however, Karayoryi’s successor on the tube doesn’t last any longer than her late predecessor, and Haritos is left chasing down leads to an office affair, a baby-smuggling racket, and a dark family secret.
Exasperated Haritos is rarely right in his guesses; the most interesting subplots here are red herrings. The big plus is the warts-and-all portrait of contemporary Athens, just in time for the Summer Olympics.