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on 12 August 2008
Why is a young woman lying dead at the bottom of a moutainside, and why have the local police declined to investigate? And how is the mystery linked to the local way of life?

This isn't a typical crime novel: it's as much an examination of the social and cultural factors influencing the crime as a whodunit, and the pace is quite leisurely (although it never drags its feet). It's set on a small Greek island, in winter, when everyone is struggling to make ends meet, and I can vouch for its authenticity, from my acquaintance with the remote Greek community where I read this. (Wish I was still there.) It's unusually well-written, rich with description, and full of excellent characters and dialogue. The resolution satisfies, and the enigma of the in-coming investigator's origins is quite intriguing! Anne Zouroudi is a talented writer, and her book deserves to do an awful lot better than I suspect it will (not helped by the fact that her surname begins with a Z; have a look, next time you're in a bookshop, and watch where people tend to peruse the shelves). Thoroughly recommended, but maybe not for those who like their crime lightning-paced and full of action.
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on 22 August 2008
What a fabulous read! Having spent many lazy holidays on remote Greek Islands in the height of summer, wishing I never had to leave, the thought of a story set on one in the winter time snagged my interest. Pleased it did as you can really feel the damp around your neck as the leaves blow around the empty tavernas & the story unfolds.
Great story, an interesting lead character not at all like most detectives you might come across & brilliantly atmosphearic. Makes you want to put a blanket accross the doorway & break out the retsina.
I've already ordered the next one & I hope there will be more after that.
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on 20 August 2007
I read this on holiday in 5 hours and found it "unputdownable" if I may be excused the clichee. Not a dull word. Not a wasted word. Lots of atmosphere and a fast paced plot. Zouroudi writes beautifully and develops her own flavour of the Greek islands (the book compares favourably with Captain Corelli's Mandolin and The Island (by Victoria Hislop). The story moves remorselessly to an unpredictable but very satisfying and poetic ending. I look forward eagerly to her next book. Strongly recommended.
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It's not the usual sort of crime novel with its highly unusual detective with very mysterious methods of detection and an odd sense of justice. If you like a run of the police proceedural or a pacy novel then this books not for you.
What I most enjoyed about the book was that it gave such an honest insight into what it's really like to live on a seemingly idyllic greek island, all the keeping up appearances, doing your duty, attending church wether you want to or not and all the gossip and back biting. It maked me question wether I'd be happier living in a big, ugly city where no one including your neighbour knows your name and doesn't care to find out either.
I loved the book and will be buying the sequel as it was such a refreshing change.
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on 16 July 2014
An excellent book. Zouroudi has the twin advantages of (a) being able to write and (b) writing about something and somewhere that she knows. The result is a compelling novel that I enjoyed reading very much. Sure, things develop at a slow pace, but whoever heard of a fast-paced crime drama set on a Greek island; particularly one modelled so closely on Symi? In fact, Zouroudi paces it just right: the speed of the narrative matches the pace and the scarred, yet unchanging, beauty of the island backwater, and the result is an enjoyable, unhurried, whodunnit, which introduces us to the immensely likeable 'detective' Hermes Diaktoros. Actually, 'detective' isn't really the right word here and the clue's in the name. Hermes by name and truly Hermes by nature, Diaktoros shares many of the traits of the 'friendliest of Gods to men', sorting everything out, bearing gifts with a supernatural aura, and assigning to everyone their due by the novel's close. A liminal figure, his presence appears to mark the boundary between mythological and physical 'worlds' and serves as something of an intrusion of the former into the latter, and the enigma of his arrival (and departure) only serves to underscore his difference from the 'mere mortals' into whose often tragic lives his (usually) benign influence extends.

Zouroudi doesn't flinch from portraying the hardness of the lives that many of the islanders live, and whilst I know virtually nothing about her I sense that it's a life that she knows because it's one that she's lived. Indeed, 'The Messenger of Athens' portrays a Greece that the tourists don't - and wouldn't really want to - visit, and whilst I can see this being the beach read of choice for many readers intrigued by its premise and setting it is, in truth, a hard-edged - and, in places, a brutal - read. Don't by any means let that put you off, however. This is a fine novel and I'm looking forward to reading the others in the series.
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on 10 June 2012
I decided to buy this book (the first in a series) after attending a talk given by its author, who spoke very candidly about how she came to create the series. That she once lived in Greece shows in her evocative description of the country and its people. A page turning plot which kept me to its end - an end I certainly didn't see coming. For me, a series to follow.

The Magpie Murders - Omnibus Edition

Jane Hetherington's Adventures in Detection Omnibus (Books 1-3)
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on 15 September 2008
I expected a 'standard' thriller - albeit one with an atmospheric setting - for a holiday read, but instead my expectations were far surpassed - the book is very well-written, full of deep dark bitterly humorous insights into the human condition as shaped and twisted by the rocky bleak sun-stained landscape of the Greek islands. Can't wait for The Taint of Midas. Hope the BBC will consider making a tv series out of what seems destined to be a classic series!
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on 5 May 2013
By the impression of the cover, I thought this was a cozy style murder mystery, so my disappointment is probably my own fault for not reading the blurb and the reviews properly. & I should have remembered that 'dark and edgy' normally means sleezy and miserable. Personally, I don't see the need to make every character and their relationship unhappy, deformed or sexually perverted (or a mixture of several of those elements). Now I know some people like those kind of books and fans of Caroline Graham will probably appreciate this book, but it just makes me feel rather grubby.

I'm not a fan of this multi-person narrative that flits from the present to the past and back again, to get 'into' the minds of the protagonists - there are some books that pull this off but not this one. I'm sure its all very artistic stuff but again, not for me.

There is no doubt that the writer has an accomplished style of prose that is very artistic and descriptive and the play on Greek mythology is a clever one, but personally I like my detective stories to be detective stories. Call me old fashioned but I like clues, red herrings, twists, turns and an array of different characters and suspects. This is a story about a death yes and has a detective nee investigator yes, but that's it - otherwise its a foray into the minds and characters of the people in the story - none of which are particularly likeable and most of which are downright depressing. The setting, the characters, all of it was just relentless decaying misery. Which again, is fine if you enjoy that kind of thing but I just prefer something a little more upbeat and entertaining.
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on 20 March 2011
The cover of my copy of the book carries the Independent's review quotation 'Powerfully Atmospheric' and the book lives up to this. This is an antidote to the romantic notion of a sunny Greek island peopled by generous hospitable people. This is a claustraphobic island, lashed by wind and storms, and peopled by a collection of nasty individuals living a medieval lifestyle. Perhaps it is accurate on all counts but for me the writing style did not overcome the burden of the caste of unsympathetic characters. I felt they all deserved each other but I deserved a more gripping read in return for putting up with them for 274 pages.
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on 13 May 2013
Really enjoyed this book - a bit different to your usual detective mysteries as the main character is not a detective! We discover this a bit later on in the book - however - who he is exactly is not made clear but is hinted at. The author really describes Greece well especially life on the small islands where the community is small and everyone knows everyone else's business. I won't spoil the story here but it is well told and you really get involved with the characters. I am now on my 3rd in the series - the 2nd was as good as the 1st. Recommend highly.
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