TARGET:TINOS – Jeffrey Siger

It has taken four books for me to recognize the pattern,  the story arc that connects MURDER IN MYKONOS, ASSASSINS OF ATHENS, PREY ON PATMOS, and TARGET:TINOS.  More about that later.

The four books in the series feature the same appealing cast of central characters, each has a beautiful locale, and all have writing that leaves the reader knowing the wait for the next book will be  far too long.

The heart, soul, and mind that drive the books is Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, the director of the special crimes division in Greece.   We meet Kaldis in the first book as he assumes his role as the chief of police on the island whose life blood is tourism.  MURDER IN MYKONOS has Kaldis and his team working to solve the murders of female tourists whose bodies are found in some of the small churches scattered around the island.  A ritual whose origins are buried in the distant past has been revived and there will be more than one victim.

In ASSASSINS OF ATHENS, Andreas Kaldis is again working in Athens.  The book opens with the discovery of the body of a young man in a dumpster.  But this young man is not one of the homeless who risk their lives on the streets every night. This boy is the son of Zanni Kostopoulos, one of the most important men in Greece.  Kostopolous is a self-made man and he is locked in a battle with Sarantis Linardos for control of Athens.  The families are using the children as pawns in a game whose end move will be the destruction of democracy and a restoration of oligarchy, rule by a small group who prove that survival of the fittest requires that some must die.

PREY ON PATMOS brings Kaldis to the place where it is believed that St. John wrote the Book of Revelations.  An elderly monk is murdered on the busy streets; what possible motive can there be?  Then Kaldis and his team learn that the monk was an expert on the arcane rules that govern the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch, the man who leads all the branches of the Orthodox faith and controls the church’s wealth.

So, this is the “later” part. In the first three books the author lays out the themes of the series: church, family, and country.  In PREY ON PATMOS, the author creates this bit 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.” And the worst of these attack faith, family, and home.

TARGET:TINOS continues and expands these themes as the structure on which the story is built.  “Revenge or Death.  that was all the note said.  It was found protected in a cylinder chained to the steering wheel of a van set on fire sometime before dawn.  In the rear of the van was another surprise wrapped in chains: the remains of to bodies charred beyond all recognition amid bits and pieces of an incinerated Greek flag.”  “Freedom Or Death” is the Greek national motto and within minutes every Greek was sure that the attack on the humans was an attack on Greek culture.  Instead, the victims are discovered to be Roma, the gypsy clans who travel endlessly to find the place where their families can improve their lots in life.  Greece, like most countries in the western hemisphere, has an immigration problem.  The Greeks, like most nationalities, fear the core of their national identity is being attacked by the “other”.

Kaldis is supposed to be preparing for his imminent wedding to Lila but the government is deeply concerned that the deaths of these men might be considered a hate crime and Greece cannot handle anymore bad publicity.

There is a rumor of a far worse problem looming over Tinos.  The target on Tinos is the Panagia Evangelista, a shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  Within the shrine is the icon depicting the moment when the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her that she is to be the mother of Jesus.   The icon is encased in silver and gold and studded with precious gems.  More than a millions Greeks make a pilgrimage to Tinos to venerate the icon known as the Megalochari.  The Virgin is the patron saint of Greece and the loss of the icon would be a blow to the bonds between the people and the Orthodox Church.  The Greeks are so generous to the church on Tinos that there is a foundation that disperses its bounty to those with every kind of need, even beyond the borders of  the country.  When the police realize that an Albanian conspiracy is aimed at the foundation, they realize there is much more than money at stake.

In TARGET:TINOS, the author takes the themes of church, family, and country and compresses them into a tightly written mystery to which every reader can relate.

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