Modeled on a real-life unsolved mystery, this is a complex story in which murder and politics in postwar Greece resurface to change the life of a bright teenage boy who's been going off the rails.
Greek writer Nikolaidou’s first work to be translated into English uses as its springboard a fictionalized version of a 20th-century cause célèbre: the drowning of well-connected U.S. journalist George Polk, who was on the trail of government corruption and misappropriated aid in Greece in 1948. Under pressure to find a culprit, the police arrest and torture a journalist, Manolis Gris, forcing a confession from him which will result in a life sentence. Nikolaidou considers these events from the perspective of people at the time and others more than half a century later, notably that of Minas Georgiou. Minas' wily schoolmaster gave him the project of re-examining the Gris case after the boy's surprising announcement that he's not going to apply for a place at university. What emerges is a fragmentary story, assembled and enlarged by the voices and lives of surrounding, connected characters, notably female ones: sisters, wives and mothers. Gris’ mother is a widow with four children to support, all of whose fortunes will be blighted by history. Minas’ grandmother was once loved by Dinopoulos, the lawyer who represented Gris and plea-bargained for him, saving his life. Ultimately Minas’ project doesn’t solve the Gris enigma but does inspire the boy—who now finds himself in the midst of Greece’s financial crisis—to return to his studies, newly alive to the recurrent hypocrisies of “ideas above lives, the country above its people.”
More context would have helped international readers understand the Greek civil war and the country’s education system; without it, it’s harder to appreciate this carefully orchestrated tale of political expediency.