Jeffrey Siger’s fourth book, TARGET:TINOS, became available yesterday in the US. Like MURDER IN MYKONOS, ASSASSINS OF ATHENS, and PREY ON PATMOS, this book continues the pattern of carrying an alliterative title. It also continues the winning pattern of thoughtful, sometimes funny, police procedurals that are the definition of the genre.
Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis fits the definition of the protagonist in the genre. Kaldis is Greek to the core so the author includes as intrinsic parts of the stories the importance of the Eastern Orthodox church in the lives of the people. God, family, and country are major themes in the books making Kaldis one of the most fully drawn characters in mystery fiction. It doesn’t hurt that cultural literacy leads us to believe we know a great deal about Greece; then the author teaches us what we have missed. Place all of this in one of the most scenically beautiful places on the planet and we have Jeffrey Siger’s books.
I mention frequently on the blog that I am somewhat obsessive about reading books in order of publication. Each of the books can be enjoyed as a stand-alone but reading them in order helps readers to be participants in the lives of the characters we look forward to meeting each time.
To give a taste of the previous books, I am posting part of the reviews that are on my blog, Murder By Type.
MURDER IN MYKONOS : A few weeks after Kaldis’ arrival, a worker in one of Mykonos’ many old churches moves a stone slab and finds a body, the body of a tall young woman, her head shaved and her body laid out in a manner that can only be described as ritualistic. What makes it worse is that she is lying on top of other bones; the last body officially buried under the slab had been interred sixty years earlier….
Siger brings the story to a close in a manner that is satisfying to the reader, especially if the reader has been paying attention. Yet he does so in a manner that I don’t remember any other author using; it is clever and closes the circle of the story. More importantly, Siger brilliantly uses religious insanity to create the methods and means of murder without being in anyway disrespectful of the customs of the Greek Orthodox Church. Not an easy task but one he executes flawlessly.
ASSASSINS OF ATHENS : a story that brings into play wealth, position, long-held grudges, jealousy, murder, and the practices of ancient Athens, seemingly lost in time. There is kidnapping, murder, exploitation, and the willingness of people to use whatever means money can buy to destroy an enemy.
ASSASSINS OF ATHENS is more than an alliterative title. Athens, the cradle of democracy, is being assassinated by powerful people who want a return to oligarchy, government by the few, the wealthy and powerful, to the detriment of the many.
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.
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.
More than a few people who have read Jeff’s books have concluded that he can see into the future. He finishes a book, hands it off to the publisher, and then finds the story on the front pages of the newspapers. Maybe a more feet-on-the-ground explanation is that he pays very close attention to the details of life as they unfold each day.
Reading a Jeffrey Siger mystery gives the reader some insight into the Eastern Orthodox church as it impacts on life in twenty-first century Greece. The characters are human and fully engaged in time and place. There are politics (how can there not be?) Some of the politics reflects the reality of Greece today. Some of the politics play out in the police department (the more things change, the more they remain the same). And there are honest cops who go to work everyday determined to serve and protect the people in their charge.
The frosting on this towering cake is the mystery that must be solved.