Friday, September 03, 2010

ASSASSINS OF ATHENS: Jeffrey Siger Spins Modern Greek Mysteries

The first crime novel from Jeffrey Siger, Murder in Mykonos, came out in January 2009 from Poisoned Pen Press. This year's title, also from Poisoned Pen, is ASSASSINS OF ATHENS. I picked it up after noting that Siger and Brazilian mystery author Leighton Gage are across-the-ocean friends. And the two authors have more in common than their writing of crime fiction: Both are silver-haired, urbane, sophisticated thinkers who've already packed one career under their belts and are enjoying the transition to writing full-time now. In Siger's case, the career was corporate law in New York City; the author's reinvention takes place on the island of Mykonos, 90 miles from Athens.

And what Gage has done for Brazilian crime, Siger now does for Greece: He explores the intimacy of social communities, the pressures around wealth and power, and the chinks in the social fabric that give operating space to psychopaths and their buddies. Most importantly, he's crafted a character worth following: Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, whose friendly management style is countered by the intensity with which he digs for criminals.

As ASSASSINS OF ATHENS opens, Andreas and his sidekick, officer Yianni Kouros, confront a corpse behind a really nasty nightclub -- the corpse of a young man, brutalized and tossed into the dumpster, then brought to police attention by an anonymous phone call. Clearly, the killer wants attention. But it's not the police attention that's critical here, but the putting the murder into the view of socially prominent and wealthy Athenians through the press and the grapevine. This isn't just a killing -- it's a message.

Meanwhile, Andreas is struggling with loneliness, susceptible to the attractions of the women crossing his path as he pursues the grim motives for the crime. A hooker, a socialite, each has a different way of penetrating his increasingly fragile defenses. And it's all confusing him, along with the stresses of what he ought to be doing:
Which was exactly why Andreas was yelling at himself in the shower. "Just how stupid are you? How could you think for a moment that a hooker could walk into his club with two gorillas, take over a table in the VIP section, and Giorgio wouldn't know exactly what was going on? What are you, Kaldis, a goddamned rookie?"

Andreas finished with a string of more expletives directed at himself and a decision to get the investigation back on track. Enough with this grand conspiracy bullshit. It was a distraction. The murder trail was getting cold. He wondered if that was intentional; the boy's death simply revenge for the Linardos girl's humiliation and Marios' performance a debt owed to the Linardos family repaid by an elegant ruse. Nothing was outside the realm of possibility. He turned off the shower. Back to rule number one: trust no one.
Siger's plotting is tight and plausible, his twists deft, and his narrative delightfully seasoned by his portrayal of modern Greek society and the roots and motives of crime. And if occasionally the writing turns a bit bashful and awkward in the love scenes, that's understandable -- the author clearly knows the strong feelings that Andreas experiences, just hasn't quite nailed how to show them yet.

Siger's third book, Prey on Patmos, is scheduled for January 2011 from Poisoned Pen Press. It's a good time to collect this fresh work and appreciate the adept way that Siger is bringing this neglected geographic region into crime fiction. A lover of Greece and its people since the 1980s, Siger shares his passion for the land where he's chosen to retire and reinvent himself. It's a pleasure.

For a good interview of Siger, check out this blog post from J. Sydney Jones: http://jsydneyjones.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/greek-tragedies

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Reminder: Check in Saturday for a guest blog post from New Hampshire author Katherine Towler, as she explores the role of war in her fiction.








6 comments:

Book Bird Dog said...

I enjoyed Assassins of Athens as well and would love to read his new one as well as the others I missed.

J. Sydney Jones said...

It was a real pleasure interviewing Jeff for Scene of the Crime. I caught him on his American tour this spring and the interview lasted from New York to Arizona and back again. Great series he has.

Jeffrey Siger said...

Not only am I honored by the kind words and delightful insights of Beth Kanell, but to be mentioned in the same piece as the inimitable Leighton Gage, flattered by the literary delight J. Sydney Jones, and praised by the one and only Book Bird Dog, takes me so far beyond bashful that I think I've finally achieved a zen state of awkward in matters of love:)) Thank you, thank all you, but especially Beth.

Anonymous said...

I have been for many years a great fan of Robin Cook who has written many medical thriller genre including 'COMA'.
My nephew who fell in love with a beautiful girl born and grew up in Athens is getting married in Athens later this year. I have been reading on Greek history and culture, etc. I have tumbled across Jeffrey Siger's 'Assassins of Athens' novel and bought a copy.
It was a bit of slow start for me to get into it initially but I have to admit that I could not put it down because the beautiful flow of the story (easy to read with a great sense of suspension)and references to Athens society and one of more prominent Agean Mykonos Island made it exceptionally interesting.
I will certainly get copies of his 'Murder in Mykonos' and 'An Aegean Prophecy' and get into it.
Well done Mr.J Siger

Anonymous said...

I have been for many years a great fan of Robin Cook who has written many medical thriller genre including 'COMA'.
My nephew who fell in love with a beautiful girl born and grew up in Athens is getting married in Athens later this year. I have been reading on Greek history and culture, etc. I have tumbled across Jeffrey Siger's 'Assassins of Athens' novel and bought a copy.
It was a bit of slow start for me to get into it initially but I have to admit that I could not put it down because the beautiful flow of the story (easy to read with a great sense of suspension)and references to Athens society and one of more prominent Agean Mykonos Island made it exceptionally interesting.
I will certainly get copies of his 'Murder in Mykonos' and 'An Aegean Prophecy' and get into it.
Well done Mr.J Siger

Beth Kanell said...

I think we've entered the era when international mysteries are both engrossing and important -- through intense fiction, we have a chance to experience something of other cultures and to put the differences among us into perspective. Jeffrey Siger, so glad you are providing this for us in terms of Greece and its culture and heritage, as well as its crime fiction!