Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi

I have a wonderful publicist at Little, Brown (a division of Hachette Book Group) who sent this book to me. And although it wasn't a book I would have pulled off the shelf to read, I have to admit I liked it. Mostly.

Description (from the publisher):

The Messenger of Athens: A NovelIdyllic but remote, the Greek island of Thiminos seems untouched and untroubled by the modern world. So when the battered body of a young woman is discovered at the foot of a cliff, the local police - governed more by archaic rules of honor than by the law - are quick to close the case, dismissing her death as an accident.

Then a stranger arrives, uninvited, from Athens, announcing his intention to investigate further into the crime he believes has been committed. Refusing to accept the woman's death as an accident or suicide, Hermes Diaktoros sets out to uncover the truths that skulk beneath this small community's exterior.

Hermes's methods of investigation are unorthodox, and his message to the islanders is plain - tell the truth or face the consequences. Before long, he's uncovering a tale of passion, corruption and murder that entangles many of the island's residents. But Hermes brings his own mystery into the web of dark secrets and lies - and as he travels the rugged island landscape to investigate, questions and suspicions arise amongst the locals. Who has sent him to Thiminos, and on whose authority is he acting? And how does he know of dramas played out decades ago?

My thoughts:

The detective, Hermes Diaktoros, is a great character. I like how the author describes this fat man and his wonderful way of dress. After telling us that he is wearing a fine suit, a shirt with a crocodile on the front, and an Italian leather belt, she then writes this:

"But the gray curls of the fat man's hair were too long, and the prominent frames of his glasses were unfashionable, and dated. And his shoes, his shoes were baffling. For who but an eccentric, with such a marvelously tailored suit, would wear tennis shoes - old-fashioned, white canvas tennis shoes?"

The other characters are interesting as well. There's the chief of police ("...from between the stacks of paperwork, like a rat peering out from a hole, he watched the fat man, the skin of his face eerily pale in the shadows, the deep black of his narrowed eyes and clipped moustache stark as ink drawn on white paper."), Jakos, the proprietor of a cafe ("...a once-handsome man with Brylcreemed hair and an Errol Flynn moustache..."), Thassis ("The third man drank again from his glass and, squinting, viewed the fat man. His eyes were deeply lined, as if the squint were habitual to him - perhaps through myopia, perhaps from the irritation of cigarette smoke: one cigarette, freshly lit, burned between his nicotine-stained fingers, whilst a forgotten second was a still-smoking, ashy remnant in the foil ashtray before him... His rail-thin body was wasted from long-term abuse; the hand holding the cigarette shook.") and Adonis ("This man had a curious disability, a fusing of the vertebrae at the top of his spine. Unable to turn his head, when he spoke, his eyes swiveled towards the target of his remarks, but his torso remained rigidly facing forward. It made him both comical and grotesque, yet he might once have been an attractive man."), to name just a few. Ms. Zouroudi has a way with words when it comes to characterization.

The plot is intriguing. The flow is smooth and the mystery engaging. I felt myself pulled along by the story as the scenes changed from present to past and back again in a quick-paced, yet coherent manner.

I think this book has many good elements save one: too much information when it came to describing the sexual experiences of the residents of the island. I became quite irritated when yet another man was aroused at the sight of a particular woman or when someone described their encounters with a member of the opposite sex. Most (if not all) of these portions of the book were unnecessary to the plot. The author could have at least written these incidents without using such language. I would have enjoyed the story so much more.

If I rated the book just on basic plot alone, I would have given it a 4 1/2. But, because of the parts mentioned in the above paragraph, I give it an overall rating of 3 1/2.

(I received this book from Little, Brown for review purposes. I received no monetary compensation for this review. All opinions expressed are completely my own.)


1 comment:

Michelle @ The True Book Addict said...

Hi Judylynn,

Wanted to stop by and thank you for entering my giveaway over at The Christmas Spirit. I also wanted to mention that I too have a book blog, The True Book Addict

Incidentally, I'm now following your book the title, btw! I noticed you live in Tennessee. I live in Donelson! I have formed a group on Goodreads, Tennessee Book Bloggers. Right now, we're small and are just online, but eventually I plan to organize periodic in-person meet and greets, parties, conferences (whatever you want to call them!) in Nashville once we get a larger following. We would love for you to join us! Here is the link: Tennessee Book Bloggers

Hope to see you around the blogosphere!

Michelle =O)