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Deadline in Athens: An Inspector Costas Haritos Mystery Paperback – July 10, 2005
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Costas Haritos was a prison guard under Greece's old fascist regime. Now a top homicide inspector under democratic rule, he still knows how to turn the screws on a tough suspect. But he is not so adept at playing politics with department heads, government ministers, and the media. So when two TV reporters turn up murdered in Athens, he needs to find a likely culprit fast. The plot, which hinges on a child-smuggling ring, provides plenty of satisfying twists. But the book's real joy lies in the wry, sly voice of its cranky protagonist. It's as if legendary columnist Mike Royko was reincarnated as a wily Greek cop. When Haritos isn't tossing out acerbic criticisms of contemporary Greek society, he is engaged in an amusingly passive-aggressive dance with his wife, Adriani, who gives at least as good as she gets. Considering her faked orgasms, Haritos muses, "If every time it happened I nabbed her and took her in, by now she'd have got life for repeated fraud." But while the climaxes may be phony, the relationship remains refreshingly real. Frank Sennett
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Top customer reviews
Haritos is intriguing. Some of the time I didn't like him--he screams at his wife for no reason, verbally abuses subordinates and suspected criminals, use to work with a torture arm of the Greek army, and reads dictionaries for entertainment. On the other hand, he's honest about his limitations, tries to apologize to his wife, attempts to ferret out corruption, and seems to be a human being going about the messy, chaotic moral choices of life. One of his frequent helpers is a man once tortured under Haritos' watch (but who Haritos helped when he could). I had to remind myself as well that this is a translated novel and is aimed at a Greek audience that might find the corruption and abuse of suspects more palatable than an American audience (especially because the novel takes place just after Greece changed its government to one with a bigger emphasis on democracy).
The case is complex but comes together tightly at the end. We have the murder of a reporter by an Albanian immigrant who confesses, and as Haritos delves deeper another reporter is murdered and so is the Albanian and a child smuggling operation begins to come to light. An apparent red herring--a convicted pederast who was arrested because of the reporter's accusations and evidence--seems unimportant but comes to eventually help solve the case and helps to show Haritos' basic humanity.
Meanwhile, the book uncovers the quotidian culture of Greek life in a way that is not usually available to non-Greek readers. We aren't learning about ancient Greek Culture or even current Greek big wigs, but about what daily life is like for Greeks, their struggles with immigrants (and what the immigrant life must be like), the power and influence of the media, and what the interior life is of the police. We come to see a very different world than that of American readers, and while perhaps not intentionally, the novel makes us think about our own way of doing things, our freedoms, our treatment of immigrants, the restraint of our own media and the expectations of our own police forces.
Admittedly, this is not a fast paced, action packed thriller. And readers looking for detectives who almost get killed at the end of each book because they stupidly put themselves out on a limb won't find what they are looking for in Haritos. And, one of the things I did find irritating is the similarity in the last names of many of the characters (which all began with K). I was having great difficulty telling them apart.
I look forward to seeing where Haritos is headed--will he become more adept at kissing up to the big wigs, like his boss insists or will he continue to harangue and irritate those in power? Will he continue with his love/dislike relationship with his wife and hide in his room reading his dictionary in order to get away from her watching her soaps? Will his daughter go on to become a lawyer on his piddling salary? And will daily life in Athens improve or continue along its plodding, difficult, corruption laden path?