PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Cover design: Marie Lane
'The everyday deprivations of the Greek financial crisis provide the background to Kanaris's second George Zakiris adventure. The private eye travels between Athens and the islands, becoming perilously enmeshed in a web of mysteries involving the disappearance of a body, the death of a musician and the disappearance of her husband. Anglo-Greek Kanaris keeps it light and characterful amid the dishonesty and corruption.'
Faithful to the traditions of hard-edged crime, Leo Kanaris has hit on a contemporary setting that smacks of the U.S. crime capitals of the Twenties. Welcome to Athens, a city mired in double-dealing and corruption.
When one of the few honest politicians is killed in a hit-and-run, his friend, private investigator George Zafiris, is called in to salvage a police inquiry foundering on bureaucratic obstructions and high-level protection of vested interests.
Violence is never far away, as Zafiris pitches headfirst into a conspiracy to cover up the sale of archaeological treasures, a case that overlaps with the murder of a young violinist on the edge of international fame.
Against a backdrop of a financial crisis that is pushing the country to bankruptcy and its citizens to despair, it is all horribly convincing. With this, his second novel,Kanaris has advanced to a five-star rating.
Those of us who are both Graecophiles and lovers of good thrillers have been a little short of material since Paul Johnston called time on his Anglo-Greek private eye Alex Mavros and the Inspector Haritos policiers of Petros Markaris ceased to enjoy English translations. Jeffrey Siger’s Inspector Kaldis books are formulaically sub-Donna Leon, while Anna Zouroudi’s magic-realist ‘Greek detective’ Hermes Diaktoros is a different beast, really, so neither of those fit the bill. Now, however, Anglo-Greek Leo Kanaris who writes in Engish but lives in Greece, has filled the void
Cops rather than private eyes are the norm these days, at least in Europe, but Kanaris has reverted to the Chandleresque tradition. George Zafiris is no ex-cop or disgraced DA, though - he's a former economist at Greece's Central Bank! It’s an unlikely change of profession, but one that allows Kanaris to create a crime-busting hero without the gung-ho characteristics of some of his literary counterparts.
He's a married man, too - though not necessarily entirely happily so since his wife's year-long fling with a shipping magnate (detailed in the first of the Zafiris books,Codename Xenophon). At least that gives him an excuse to be world-weary, as if the state of Greek society was not enough.
George is disgusted by the corruption of his country's government and institutions, as much the new kids on the block of Syriza as the old guard of PASOK and New Democracy. Fortunately, unlike former colleague Hector, who met a foolish end in Codename Xenophon, he does not yearn for the return of a military dictatorship, just a new consciousness among his country-men and women and an end to their stupidity and profligacy.
As George pursues the killers of an idealistic island Mayor - assisted by Hector's brother, Haris - Kanaris paints a dark and despairing portrait of modern Greece, as far removed from the experiences of sun-seeking tourists as were, in their different way, the films of Theo Angelopoulos. A certain kind of justice is done, and George finds allies in Haris and the cautious police colonel Sotiriou, but Blood and Gold seems to offer little hope for a damaged, destitute, confused and chaotic country, especially as Codename Xenophon's political villain has been absorbed into the Syriza government.
Perhaps, however, he will get his comeuppance in Kanaris's future Zafiris books. I will certainly be reading on to find out, because despite their downbeat tone, this series is an intelligent, engrossing treat.
Blood and Gold, and an earlier thriller by Leo Kanaris, Codename Xenophon, are perfect examples of how well-crafted detective fiction from another country opens windows on to a brave new world, and shows that there are more similarities than differences between us all as we get on with the business of living in failing Western societies. As the post-war liberal bandwagon begins to roll backwards, overtaken by the populist demagogue's juggernaut of lies, we need more cracking good crime stories like this one, to entertain, illuminate, and inform.
In Kanaris’s assured sequel to 2015’s Codename Xenophon, PI George Zafiris looks into the suspicious death of Mario Filiotis, the mayor of the island of Astypalea. According to the police report, Filiotis was riding a bicycle when he lost his balance and was hit by a truck. Zafiris, who was a friend of the deceased mayor, soon discovers that the police have done everything possible to erase any evidence. “The bicycle has been disposed of,” an unhelpful official tells him. “Also the truck driver’s file.” During Filiotis’s funeral, a mishap with his coffin reveals not a body but a trove of archeological treasures. Filiotis’s appointment book provides some leads for Zafiris and his raw but eager helper, Haris Pezas, to pursue. Meanwhile, Zafiris takes on a worried new client, Anna Kenteri, who wants him to locate her missing sister, violinist Keti Kenteri. Both cases turns out to be complex and dangerous. Kanaris depicts a troubled Greece with compassion and precisely observed social commentary