Crime Fiction Alphabet: Letter Z

We have reached the final letter in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet and to illustrate the letter Z I’m focussing on:

The Whispers of Nemesis by Anne ZouroudiThis book is the fifth in Zouroudi’s series about Hermes Diaktoros of Athens, the Greek Detective.

Summary (from Anne Zouroudi’s website):

It is winter in the mountains of northern Greece and as the snow falls in the tiny village of Vrisi a coffin is unearthed and broken open. But to the astonishment of the mourners at the graveside, the remains inside the coffin have been transformed, and as news of the bizarre discovery spreads through the village like forest fire it sets tongues wagging and heads shaking.

Then, in the shadow of the shrine of St Fanourios (patron saint of lost things), a body is found, buried under the fallen snow – a body whose identity only deepens the mystery around the exhumed remains. There’s talk of witchcraft, and the devil’s work – but it seems the truth, behind both the body and the coffin, may be far stranger than the villagers’ wildest imaginings. Hermes Diaktoros, drawn to the mountains by a wish to see an old and dear friend, finds himself embroiled in the mysteries of Vrisi, as well as the enigmatic last will and testament of Greece’s most admired modern poet.

The Whispers of Nemesis is a story of desperate measures and long-kept secrets, of murder and immortality and of pride coming before the steepest of falls.

My view:

Hermes is a detective with a difference. Just who he is and who he works for is never explained. He’s most definitely not a policeman and when asked he says he works for a ‘higher power’ than the police. He is described as ‘the fat man’. He wears a cashmere overcoat of midnight blue, a grey suit with a subtle stripe and a waistcoat, and white tennis shoes. He has owlish glasses and thick curly greying hair. His name is his

… ‘father’s idea of humour. He’s something of a classical scholar.  And in the spirit of my namesake, I call these’ – he indicated his white tennis shoes – ‘my winged sandals.’  (page 94)

It is this element of the novels that appeal to me – that and the quirky mysteries. And this book certainly is about a strange mystery about the life and death of the poet Santos Volakis. A local man, he had died some four years earlier choking on an olive stone. In his will he had stipulated that his bequests would only be available when his bones ‘finally see daylight’. So the rite of exhumation, which is customary in rural Greece four years after a death was important to his family and friends, but no one was prepared for the shock that it delivered when the bones were revealed.

I found it a little difficult at first following the sequence of events and identifying who was who, but I soon worked it out. I also had worked out what the mystery was well before the the end, which actually added to my enjoyment of reading the book. The setting is superb, placing you so completely in Greece in winter amongst believably real people.

Each of the books in the Hermes Diaktoros series features one of the Seven Deadly Sins ‘“ in this one it is the sin of pride. Nemesis is the bringer of retribution.

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (7 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408821915
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408821916
  • Source: I bought the book
  • My Rating: 3.5/5

1. The Messenger of Athens (2007)
2. The Taint of Midas (2008)
3. The Doctor of Thessaly (2009)
4. The Lady of Sorrows (2010)
5. The Whispers of Nemesis (2011)
6. The Bull of Mithros (2012)

Thanks to Kerrie for organising the Crime Fiction Alphabet. I’ve listed the books I’ve read in a page (see Index tab at the top of the blog) and soon I’ll do a summing up post about the highlights.

Recent Reading

I’ve read some books recently and haven’t written about them – ‘real life’ keeps getting in the way! So here are a few brief notes on three of the books I’ve read this month:

  • The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi 4/5 – the first in the Hermes Diaktoros, Greek detective series, set on a remote Greek island. Hermes investigates the death of a young woman. It’s great on location and characters, but a bit slow in parts. Each of the books in the series features one of the Seven Deadly Sins – in this one it is the sin of lust. I’ve read the third book in the series – The Doctor of Thessaly – and have the fifth one, The Whispers of Nemesis. I just need to find the second and fourth books to complete the series.
  • Before the Poison by Peter Robinson 4/5. This is a stand-alone book, about Chris Lowndes, a widower who has bought a house in the Yorkshire Dales. Sixty years earlier a man had died there and his wife Grace was convicted of his murder and hanged. Chris wants to discover whether she really was guilty. This is a convincing mystery, told alternating between the present day and the past. Another book well grounded in its locality and with great characterisation.
  • The Inspector’s Daughter by Alanna Knight 3.5/5 – the first in the Rose McQuinn Mystery series. Set in Edinburgh in 1895, Rose, recently returned from America’s Wild West, steps into the shoes of her father, DI Faro (another series of books features this detective). Her friend Alice ask her to investigate her husband’s strange behaviour as she is convinced he’s having an affair. Meanwhile there is also the mystery of the brutal murder of a servant girl to solve. Rose lives in an isolated house at the foot of Arthur’s Seat and is helped by a wild deerhound who appears just when she needs him. An interesting historical murder mystery, convincingly set in the late 19th century, when Edinburgh was developing and the Forth Railway Bridge had just been opened.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: Z is for Zouroudi

For the last letter of Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet I’ve chosen The Doctor of Thessaly by Anne Zouroudi. It’s a good book to end this round of the Alphabet, by an author whose books I’ve seen on the bookshelves but have never read before.  I enjoyed it.

Anne Zouroudi was born in England, has lived for some years on the Greek islands and now lives in the Derbyshire Peak District. The Doctor of Thessaly is the third in the series of her Mysteries of the Greek Detective, about Hermes Diaktoros, a mysterious fat man. I was never sure who he worked for, or how he knew of the mystery to solve. Each of the books in the series features one of the Seven Deadly Sins – in this one it is envy, a tale of revenge and retribution.

Set in the little Greek village of Morfi, it begins with Chrissa, a jilted bride weeping on the beach, and then moves on quickly to the discovery of the local doctor, the victim of an attack that has left him horribly scarred and blind. He is the absent bridegroom. Meanwhile Hermes has arrived in the village, waiting to be served at the kafenion:

Adonis, riding by, stared at the man – a big man, perhaps even fat, whose curly, greying hair was a little too long, and whose glasses gave him an air of academia. Beneath a beige trench-coat, he wore a suit without a tie; beside him lay a holdall of green leather. In Eva’s comfortable chair he seemed relaxed, drawing on a freshly lit cigarette, one foot crossed over the other; and it was the stranger’s feet that drew Adonis’s eyes. The fat man was wearing tennis shoes – old fashioned, canvas shoes, pristinely white. (page 9)

Hermes involves himself with the mystery of who attacked the doctor, made more puzzling because the doctor doesn’t want his attacker to be found. At the same time the village is expecting a visit from a government minister, an event that not all the locals want to be successful, and the family of the garage owner is going through some traumatic experiences. Hermes helps out in some unorthodox ways.

Just who is Hermes Diaktoros, I wondered as I read this book? My knowledge of Greek mythology is very rusty, but the clue is in his name, I think – Hermes, the messenger of the gods. He wore shoes with wings, and this Hermes is indeed fleet of foot in his pristine tennis shoes.

There are many things I like about this book, not just the mystery and the references to mythology, but also the characters and the setting which evoke the scenes of a little Greek village so well and the close-knit almost claustrophobic relationship of its inhabitants. And there is a map of the area and a list of characters.

I really must read the other books in the series:

  • The Messenger of Athens
  • The Taint of Midas
  • The Lady of Sorrows
  • The Whispers of Nemesis

Thanks to Kerrie for organising the Crime Fiction Alphabet. I’ve listed the books I’ve read in a tab at the top of the blog and soon I’ll do a summing up post about the highlights.