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The Messenger of Athens: A Novel Hardcover – July 19, 2010

52 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of Zouroudi's intriguing first in a series based on the seven deadly sins, self-styled investigator Hermes Diaktoros (aka "the fat man") arrives from Athens on the island of Thiminos to look into the death of Irini Asimakopoulos, a young woman whose body was found at the foot of a high cliff. Irini's sad story unfolds slowly as Hermes, who can ask questions gently or demand answers gruffly, talks to a number of people involved, including Irini's husband, Andreas; her putative lover, Theo Hatzistratis; Theo's wife, Elpida; and the island's police chief, Panayiotis Zafiridis, who officially deemed her death an accident but privately believes it was suicide. The secrets the locals keep or share can't be hidden from Hermes, who weighs the evidence and, in the end, rewards or punishes in ways that have little to do with written laws. Zouroudi writes well, but this leisurely tale is more likely to appeal to armchair travelers interested in Greece than mystery buffs.
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"Anne Zouroudi writes beautifully - her books have all the sparkle and light of the island landscapes in which she sets them." (Alexander McCall Smith)

"Hermes Diaktoros is a delight. Half Poirot, half deus ex machina, but far more earth-bound than his first name suggests, the portly detective has an other-worldly, Marlowesque incorruptibility as he waddles through the mean olive groves. There is also a cracking plot, colourful local characters and descriptions of the hot, dry countryside so strong that you can almost see the heat haze and hear the cicadas - the perfect read to curl up with as the nights draw in."
(The Guardian)

"This powerfully atmospheric mystery embraces Mediterranean passion, mythic meddling and patriarchal persecution." (Independent)

"Absorbing and beautifully written...reveals the savage, superstitious reality behind the pretty facade that is all that most of us know of any Greek island." (Literary Review)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books; 1 edition (July 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316075426
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316075428
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,021,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Anne Zouroudi was born in Lincolnshire in 1959 and grew up in England's industrial north, in the steel city of Sheffield, South Yorkshire. After a number of years in a lucrative career - which included time working on Wall Street, and in Denver, Co - she gave up an excellent job to live in the Greek islands. She married a Greek, and her son was born on the island of Rhodes.
"The truth is," she says, "I was a Shirley Valentine."

Anne's writer's eye records in fascinating detail the minutiae of the lives of the Greek people, and her mould-breaking crime novels bring Greece's timeless landscapes vividly to life. She regards her work as a labour of love. "Greece," she says, "is my spiritual home, the land that stole my heart and shows no sign of ever returning it."

Her first novel, The Messenger of Athens, was nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize for Sparkling New Fiction, and ITV3's Crime Thriller Awards 2008.

Anne now lives in middle England, in the beautiful Peak District National Park. "It's pretty," she says. "But Greece still calls my name. At every opportunity, I'm there."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Amy Goebel Padgett VINE VOICE on May 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In many ways, I feel that I am not a good reviewer for The Messenger of Athens. Sometimes a book works for you and sometimes it does not. I gave it a good rating, though, because I felt it was a good book for the right audience (even though I was not that audience). I love the Greek islands and had hoped this would be an intriguing mystery in one of my favorite locales.

The story takes place on the island of Thiminos and it is a terrible, bleak place. The inhabitants are depressed and bored with their restricted lives, and have litttle (no) ambition to change their lives. They rise each day--if they even bother to get out of bed--only to see the graveyard outside their window, reminding them of the pointlessness of their lives. Only the victim's uncle seems to have had any kind of a life at all, as he traveled in his youth and remembers South America (mostly the ladies of the night) with fondness. Sadly, his neice is subjected to rumors of cheating on her husband and is found dead at the bottom of a cliff.

Hermes Diaktoros, described mostly as "The Fat Man" arrives to investigate her death. His trademark appears to be an obsession with keeping his white sneakers white with the shoe polish he carries around.

I'm afraid I had difficulties caring about the characters, or the mystery of why the neice died. If I was her uncle living in that depressing place, I'd have been inclined to serve a little cyanide along with the coffee.

That's why I believe this was simply not the book for me.

The writing was good and the mystery had a satisfying end. If you like mysteries with a more "literary" flavor, then you will appreciate the atmospheric writing, as well as glimpses into how bleak life can really be on a Greek island. I guess it's not all sunshine and turquoise ocean waves.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By jennahw VINE VOICE on July 8, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I went into this book not really knowing what to expect, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I picked it solely based on cover.

The small Greek island is set more or less in present day, but it's one of those timeless places that makes the story read more like a folk tale - which is good. When a man referred to mostly as 'the fat man' shows up to investigate the death of a local woman, he goes about his business despite the protestations of the corrupt local 2-man police force, who have declared the death a suicide.

We are drawn into the story several ways. One story follows the fat man as he investigates. He follows the word on the street, but is also surprisingly knowledgeable about all things involved, and gets to the heart of the matter with each person he questions. In his satchel, he is able to pull out the perfect thing to thank each person or convince them of his intent. We are never told exactly who is he, who he works for, why he is there, or how he knows anything. When justice is done, it is fair and perfect.

We also see the story through the eyes of Irini, the woman who died, Andreas her husband, and Theo her lover. Some of these asides are flashbacks that alternate with the fat man's chapter, and some happen concurrently with the fat man's investigation. The juxtaposition of these stories works very well to make you care for an understand the motivations of all the characters.

I really enjoyed this book and will be looking for more from the author.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By coyote on July 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Right from the beginning this book is hard to follow, as the author opens with a death scene that is vaguely depicted . She is plays "hide the ball" by introducing characters without saying who they are, keeping us in the dark but not telling enough to pique our interest.

Then there are jumps in time, long winded flowery descriptions that slow down what little actual action is taking place, and a preponderance of characters being introduced, both in the "present" time of the investigation and the flashbacks to the events that lead to the death of the main character.

but despite long descriptions, the characters are short changed. The protagonist, the detective, is pretty much just a "fat man" and not much more. He barely makes an appearance in the first 50 pages.
We get a better sense of the floor in the room he enters than we do of the man himself.
I guess this makes him inscrutable (yawn) or perhaps identifiable as an "everyman" or at the very least an "every fat man". Other characters are simply the one "missing several fingers" or the one "without teeth". I guess on Greek Islands most people are defined more by what they don't have than by what they are. Except of course in the case of the fat man, who is defined by what he has too much of.

What this book has too much of is descriptive phrases, but again, don't let that fool you:
The long descriptions don't really give you any better sense of place or , more importantly, of it's people. We know more about Uncle Nikos' chair than about his person.

Several people seem to have had affairs with several others, several characters seem to be related to each other.
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