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3.5 out of 5 stars
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on 23 April 2009
I picked this up because the Greek island location intrigued me. Having just finished the book, I have to say this is one of the best and most engaging crime novels I've read recently. It's also one of the darkest and most disturbing.
It's set on a small Greek island, a tourist paradise full of clubbers and sunbathers. Suddenly the bodies of two backpackers are found ritually slaughtered up by an old monastery. Nikos, a detective nearing retirement, is in charge of the case. He's a great character, melancholy and flawed, but with a resolute sense of decency and justice. And, like all good detectives, a secret he's trying to keep hidden. The murders remind him of a similar spate of such murders that happened on the island in 1975 and for which a cult was responsible. Are these copycat murders or the same killer resurfacing?
Into this mix comes Kitty Carson, a famous crime novelist, taking a break from work commitments. Unknown to her, she's followed to the island by Jason, an unpublished writer with his own agenda. The two of them bond over the murders, investigating them for themselves and setting off a chain of events that lead to a bloody and nerve-shredding finale.
There's also nice bits about Greek history, politics, the nature of cults and lots and lots of centipedes!
Sherez writes beautifully, and often poetically, about the small island, the sense of mystery and malice. His descriptions of characters and the landscape are almost filmic in the way they unroll before your eyes and I could imagine myself there quite easily.
The tension is cranked up slowly but surely until the last 70 pages where, like me, you'll find yourself staying awake until you've reached the end. As well as being a great mystery (I never guessed!) Sherez has a lot to say about mystery in general and what people turn to when they no longer believe in God. The ending is really sad in an English Patient kind of way.
The characters are all unusual and yet appealing, the plot is complex without ever being confusing and the sense of being trapped on a sunny island filled with hidden darkness is almost palpable. It was great to have a strong female lead character that's been written by a man for a change.
Like a cross between Alex Garland's The Beach and a Robert Wilson novel, this is a captivating, exciting and page-turning thriller. Perfect for the summer holiday though you may well think twice about visiting Greece after reading this!
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VINE VOICEon 26 June 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
As for the monastery, the building is white, but its history is black - hence the apt title.
Kitty, a famous writer, and Jason, her adoring fan with alternative motives, meet up on a Greek island. There they become caught up in a series of sadistic murders. With the soon to retire Police Chief, Nikos, they endeavour to solve the mystery which goes back thirty-three years.
I found this book very easy to read. The descritive passages contained within are concise, adequate, effective and not overpowering. The action starts at chapter one and is not interrupted by unnecessary packing.
The author is new to me, but has the gift of being able to write a novel which achieves what it sets out to do in 300 pages - Hooray! Most novels I read these days waffle on for twice that and I have forgotten what they are all about to start with.
I shall certainly be watching for more from this promising pen.
A great read - sand, ozone and sunshine.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
'The Black Monastery' is gripping! It's about a 30 year old murder on a Greek Island called Palassos, which re-surfaces in the present day. The Black Monastery in question is a deserted one, in the interior of the island, where the tourists never get to see, and only the locals know its secrets. In the 70's, there was a hippie commune there, much to the disgust of the locals, and then one day 2 local boys were found murdered. staked out on an altar in a sacrificial manner. Obviously, the work of the hippie cult? The cult then commits mass suicide, and the island slowly picks itself up and carries on. Nikos, who was a rookie policeman in the 70's. is now Chief of Police, and very close to retirement, when new murders are committed, and the past comes back to haunt him. For the past 30 years, he has tried to escape the awful events in the Black Monastery, when suddenly he has to face dreadful similarities in the present day. His wife, Alexia, is curator of the museum, and guardian of secrets. Enter Jason and Kitty. Kitty is an English author, who is trying to 'find' herself, and Jason is a 'wannabe' author, who has followed Kitty to Palassos in an attempt to manufacture a meeting and give her the manuscript that he has been working on - which will change his life and fortune he hopes. Slowly, the wheels of fate draw all these people together, and they all become embroiled in the horrors of the past and present on Palassos.
This is a really great book, full of twists and turns, dark and macabre secrets, retribution and acceptance. I loved the description of Palassos, and I was totally enthralled by the story. I liked the fact that the characters were totally believable and realistic. I definitely recommend this book, and would love to read more!!
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on 26 November 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Having read Stav Sherez's first book I was looking forward to this. It is based on a Greek Island where a policeman is looking into what might be cult inspired murders. The characters are interesting, the chapters are short (always a plus in my eyes) so the story moves at a good pace. Add in plenty of blood and for a thriller it is ok, but not as good as his first novel. Still worth a read.
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
You don't expect a novel about the worst aspects of human behaviour to be a laugh a minute, but this is a relentlessly dark novel. From it's opening chapter, the tone is downbeat, the characters all pessimism, everyone with some ambiguity. Even the setting for the story, a Greek island, which could be idyllic, is portrayed as a place where secrets weigh heavily. And it's those secrets which drive the plot.

Two novelists, one succesful, one aspiring, arrive on the island where they become embroiled in the investigation into murdered tourists and connections to events 30 years in the past. The story is told from the perspective of these two and the detective in charge of the case. I have to say I found the relationship between the novelists a little too convenient, but that aside the plot is well developed with those secrets being revealed at a satisfying pace.

Shavez uses shifting tenses to mark the difference between the leading characters, a very effective device, and the sombre, bleak tone is exactly in keeping with the subject matter. If you like detective fiction, then this will be worth your time, because well written though-provoking fiction like this is rare enough in the genre.
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on 13 May 2009
I could not put this book down! It is one of the most invigorating stories I have read in a long time.

The author really brought me into the story to a point where I felt like I was actually watching a movie, the character's were all really well thought out and real in their portrayal.

I loved the twists to the story and also the grande finale, it just made reading the book all worth while!!!

I love when I read a book and I get that same excited, suspense feeling that you get when you are watching a movie.

Black Monastery was very well written and I look forward to reading many more books by Stav Sherev especially if this one is anything to go by. Bravo!!!
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VINE VOICEon 9 July 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Stav Sherez is a real discovery. He writes well and knows when he has said enough. This book is only 300 pages long and does not look thick enough to take its reader on an intriguing mystery roller-coaster ride. Appearances are deceptive; it delivers in spades.

He understands how to generate pace. The use of the historic present is masterly. He also understands when not to use it. His narrative is not padded with unnecessary words and descriptions, yet characters and places come vividly to life. This book is not stretched to bursting point with flowery phrases. The tight incisive prose makes you want to read on.

The characters are believable. The dialogue convinces and each character has his/her own speech patterns.

As the plot reaches its conclusion, the tension is cranked up convincingly and, at no point, do you think of the characters as idiots for getting caught up in the situations in which they find themselves. This is something that spoiled a lot of otherwise good thrillers for me over the years and it is wonderful to come across a relatively new author who does not fall into this trap.

I have been very fortunate with the books I have read this year. The good ones have far outnumbered the stinkers, although there have unfortunately been about five or six of those. This one is decidedly the best of the lot. Strongly recommended. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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VINE VOICEon 12 June 2009
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a good little thriller set in the Greek Islands that, after a bit of a slow start, really takes off, encompassing 1970s hippy cults, depraved monks, centipede misuse and drug dealers along the way. Taking as its premise a 30 year old double murder which is suddenly seemingly copied and repeated over two consecutive summers, it's well written if not overly-complex. The Greek Islands are portrayed honestly (i.e. not just sun and sand, but drink, drugs and vomit too, largely in equal measure) and the main characters drive the plot along without too much descriptive asides to detract from the story.

It unfolds like an extended episode of Criminal Minds but with two separate investigations, one by the ageing police chief, Nikos, newly returned to the island of his birth, the other by an established thriller writer Kitty and her stalker-like accomplice Jason - an aspiring writer himself. Gradually the two investigations intertwine whilst the plot takes a couple of neat twists before revealing the true nature of what happened in the past and in the present.

A good holiday book, but perhaps not if you're on a Greek island. Or in sight of any centipedes!
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've never read a crime novel before, but after reading this, I will make a point to pick up more novels like it as this is truly the most engaging and exhilarating novel I have read in a very long time. The characters are well defined and believable in their ways as they are flawed and human in depth and the decisions they make. Nikos one of the main characters in the book is a high ranking police detective close to retirement, working on the case this story is about shows how his own human emotions and detrimental past through the way in which he works on solving the case. Believable characters are what make a successful book and this is filled to the brim with them.

The story focuses around two bodies which are found mutilated in a ritualistic way at old monastery ruins. Nikos the chief Police detective takes the case as it bares resemblance to the ritualistic killings of a large cult which committed mass suicide after the murders in 1974. Set on the small Greek island of Palassos, a popular crime fiction writer named Kitty is holidaying on the island when she becomes intrigued by the recent murders and the murders of the past. Her stalker, Jason, incidentally saves her life when she first arrives and develops a relationship based on secrecy as he struggles with keeping his fanatical stalking secret from her as they both get more involved with each other.

Although the murder mystery and the setting itself are interesting in their own right, it's the realism of the characters that make this novel so enjoyable. The main 3 of Kitty, Jason and Nikos along with the equally interesting, Wynn and Mayor Petrakis make for an ensemble cast worthy of a 5 star rating in itself. As the mystery of the murders unravel and Kitty & Jason are given numerous violent hints to stay out of the puzzle of the new ritualistic murders, the story becomes sincerely riveting and fast paced. I found myself sitting for hours losing myself in the world of this crime mystery which has never happened to me before.

Being the first novel by Stav Sherez I have read, I really had no expectations going in and depending on how you look at it, that can either be a good or a bad thing. For me, it was most definitely a good thing as I had no prior expectations and from the roaring reviews I have read of his first novel I can imagine that when I get around to that I will be holding those massive expectations and fearing to let them go. I would strongly recommend this book as if you haven't heard of this author before, you will be extremely surprised at the quality of writing and suspense within and find yourself becoming quite bitter at the hype surrounding the terrible writing of Dan Brown, when something of this quality is being overlooked in an embarrassing way.
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on 19 July 2012
bought this as a have handy book in my kindle collection and was pleasantly surprised well wourth a read will also look for other book,s by this author
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