PREY ON PATMOS is the third book in the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series and, like its predecessors, is an entertaining police procedural and an engrossing look at twenty-first century social problems against the background of an ancient culture.
“There was an unusual cadence to the man’s walk. Maybe it was the uneven stone lane. But he’d walked this path ten thousand times, thought not so soon before first light. Still, he knew it well enough. He paused, as if to listen, then moved five paces and paused again….Perhaps he should have been looking as carefully as he listened, but it wouldn’t have mattered. The men stood quietly at the bottom of the path, just beyond where it opened in the the town square. He could not see them.” In an instant, his throat cut, Kalogeros Vassilis lies dead in the town square of Patmos, the island home of monasteries built on the holy ground where St. John wrote the Book of Revelations. Vassilis was an old man who had lived a life of devotion to his faith. Why would anyone kill him?
The answer to that question becomes the responsibility of Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis and his partner, Yianni Kouros. Andreas is the head of the Greek Police’s Special Crimes Division and the murder of a monk on Patmos just before Easter, the most important day in the Christian calendar, is a very special crime. Andreas isn’t just confronted with satisfying the demands of the government functionaries who want credit for a quick solution of the murder; Andreas is up against the formidable power and position of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
As they investigate, Andreas and Yianni learn that Vassilis was a committed researcher, using the internet to unravel the rules that governed the choice of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the leader of all the branches of the Orthodox church. To the secular world such issues hardly seem the stuff of life and death. But the religious world is also a world of human beings and a religious life doesn’t mean a life without temptation and sin.
The death of Vassilis reveals that monasteries that have thrived for over a thousand years are not immune from the intrusion of twenty-first century political reality. For a thousand years, men have withdrawn from the world to do penance for the evils they have committed and men have escaped from the world to avoid punishment for the crimes they do not regret. Andreas and Yianni, with the help of Mykonos cop Tassos Stamatos, are faced with investigation by secret meetings, hidden identities, and role playing. Gaining control of the great wealth of the Orthodox church is a powerful motivator for the ruthless and the amoral.
The author creates this piece of dialogue: “So much of life is illusion, driven by masters of manipulation who incite passions, instill mortal fears, justify actions. They’ve always existed, always will. But those to fear, to guard against – and yes, to pray against – are illusionists who act without conscience, without values, without any moral compass.” It succinctly expresses the theme of this excellent book.
On one level, PREY ON PATMOS is an excellent police procedural. On another level, the book continues Jeffrey Siger’s look at some of the most profound problems faced by society now. MURDER IN MYKONOS examined the phenomenon of the serial killer, a person who kills simply for the joy of killing. Victims are random, there is no motive other the compulsion of the killer and, in that, lies the fear that no one is safe. ASSASSINS OF ATHENS uses the murder of the scion of a wealthy family, intense family rivalries, and a return to some of the practices of ancient Athens to undermine the democracy that the Athenians invented. PREY ON PATMOS goes to the core of the Greek character. In the Author’s Note at the beginning of the book, Siger writes, “Today, Greece is a land of unwavering faith in God and a unique commitment to the Eastern Orthodox Church as an integral part of its way of life.” In this third book, that for which people have been willing to die is under attack by those willing to use God and faith as an instrument for societal erosion.
PREY ON PATMOS led me to do something I would never have dreamed of doing before reading this book. The story captures the reader from the first paragraph so I couldn’t stop reading but there was so much information I wanted to investigate that I made marks in the margin, an unforgivable sin for a bibliophile.
Jeffrey Siger succeeds in a complicated balancing act. In a work of fiction, the author creates a murder that is tied to characters who use religion as a cover for their sinful actions while never being, in anyway, disrespectful to the Eastern Orthodox Church or the Christian faith.