Santorini Caesars

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santorinicaesars300Written by Jeffrey Siger — Jeffrey Siger may be American, but he has made his home in Greece for many years now, and his love of the country shines through in his novels. His Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series has moved from Mykonos to Athens, via many other Greek locations. In the eighth novel, you’ll spend equal amounts of time in Athens and Santorini, perhaps the most beautiful and atmospheric of Greek islands. However, its violent volcanic past – it is believed to be the inspiration behind the myth of Atlantis – mirrors the potentially violent deeds which are about to take place there in modern times.

Protesters in Syntagma Square, Molotov cocktails, tear gas – just another typical day in Athens. But then a demonstrator is shot down in the middle of the street, just in front of the safe haven of the university gates. Kaldis is desperate to avoid a major incident: the victim was the daughter of an influential army general. The demonstrators believe she was shot by the police, but the police think it was a pair of professional killers deliberately targeting the young woman. The bereaved father, Brigadier Sigounas, is not sharing all that he knows with the police. He seems ready to start his own separate investigation into the shooting.

Kaldis and his team soon become convinced that this is tragic incident is intended to be a warning – but to whom and why? What is the link to a top secret meeting of army generals in Santorini and just what are they planning to do in response to the country’s ongoing economic and political crises? Kaldis places a few members of his team in Santorini to keep an eye on proceedings, but he soon wonders whether he’s foiling a military coup or an assassination designed to plunge the country into chaos.

This is a very topical novel, perhaps uncomfortably so for those familiar with Greek politics. Contemporary Greece is still profoundly scarred by the consequences of the military dictatorship in the early 1970s and this fear is palpable throughout the novel. However, there are no clear-cut good and bad politicians or public servants (such as police or military) in Santorini Caesars. Instead, Siger shows us just how difficult it is to remain upright and incorruptible in a world where nothing is certain and everything has become politicised. In a previous novel, Andreas was briefly a minister, but he is now back on his old beat investigating special crimes, after the success in the elections of a populist leftist party similar to the current Syriza coalition, but never explicitly named as such. Andreas does not miss his political appointment, but he has to tread carefully and he is never quite sure whom to trust.

Luckily, he has loyal and dedicated colleagues, full of warm-hearted and funny characters, whose friendly jibes readers of previous novels will love and appreciate. If this is your first encounter with Andreas Kaldis and his team, you will be amused by their robust exchanges of opinion. This is the more chaotic teamwork of the Balkans rather than the slick, well-oiled police machine of the US or UK. Kaldis is demanding and impatient at times, but also a bit of a father figure. And, like all good fathers, he encounters disobedience and gentle mockery on occasion, however there’s no doubting that his comrades are full of good intentions. There is also a rather fun secondary story about a young man on Kaldis’ team, Petro, and his infatuation with the waitress at their Santorini hang out.

For fans of political thrillers like The Day of the Jackal or Alan Glynn’s Blood Land, this will work well as a standalone. Meanwhile, for armchair travellers who prefer their Greece tinged with noir, this will remind them of Petros Markaris or Sergios Gakas. As the Andreas Kaldis series progresses, its tone deepens and we are getting to see less of the touristy side of Greece and far more of its present day concerns and realities.

Poisoned Pen Press

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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