Gyles Brandreth writes beautifully. This particular book which reminded me somewhat of Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Indians', I found didn't quite match...moreGyles Brandreth writes beautifully. This particular book which reminded me somewhat of Agatha Christie's 'Ten Little Indians', I found didn't quite match up to his earlier books. Some of the plot was a wee bit 'far-fetched', and at other times rather predictable. Notwithstanding, an enjoyable historical romp.(less)
This is a thoroughly good read, with Anne Zouroudi in top form. The third in her Hermes Diaktoros series finds our erstwhile fat detective in a small town in rural Thrace - where long forgotten by the tourist throng the local inhabitants scratch out a living. First impressions are that it is not a happy place and in true Zouroudi style the story soon becomes populated by an assortment of characters more often than not somewhat morose and suspicious at the fat man's presence. Why is he there? Well, we the reader have never been given an explanation as to who Hermes Diaktoros really is, precisely where he comes from and what directs him to turn up in the places we find him - and of course this is all quite intentional. But with every book that is published we are given another tantalising clue to enable our imagination to take flight, and Zouroudi does not fail us this time either. But enough said on that subject or it will become a spoiler. The story is neither complex nor simple and revolves around the assault on a foreign doctor who is taken to the local hospital - and the web of characters and happenings that is spun around this event. But the beauty of the story is in the writing; there is something very honest, slightly challenging and non-conformist about her narrative. She never tries to seduce you with her characters, which are revealed to you in their uncompromising nakedness, exposing their weaknesses, flaws and bitterness at the world that is passing them by. But don't get me wrong - her writing is not depressive for there are often redeeming qualities in most of her characters and one knows that at some point we will be made to stumble upon a glittering jewel hidden amongst the cast populating this otherwise barren landscape. And her principal dramatis persona Hermes Diaktoros is a case in point. He is fat, enjoys his earthly pleasures and is somewhat indolent - not the most appealing of characteristics. A far cry from his more svelte, sexy and appealing Mediterranean counterparts; Aurelio Zen, Andreas Kaldis or Salvo Montalbano. And for these reasons, amongst others, I can never entirely warm to him despite knowing that he is a force for good. Such is Zouroudi's art and quirkiness. But I love her books for it, and for showing me a side to Greece that I, the transient tourist so easily miss in my flitting butterfly visits. I leave you with a passage where she describes a collection of old sepia photographs that the fat detective has stumbled upon:
"There were ten black and white shots, all taken at the shore: the face of a young fisherman, whose old eyes looked far out to sea; a catch of dying fish, gasping in a dripping net; an upturned boat, long-abandoned and decaying on a winter beach. All captured both a moment and all time, an age already past but never passing in men's consciousness and dreams."
Despite some rough edges at the beginning of this book I enjoyed it, and like a mature camembert it got better and better as time passed. And the endi...moreDespite some rough edges at the beginning of this book I enjoyed it, and like a mature camembert it got better and better as time passed. And the ending though not entirely a surprise, is moving and embracing and very Armistead Maupin. (less)
This book reminds me somewhat of a mayonnaise gone slightly wrong. It has all the required ingredients, many of which are of the highest quality, but their proportions, the way in which they have been added and the sequence of their incorporation and direction of 'stir' are not the best and the result lacks smoothness and satisfaction. If I were to rate this book on the basis of its last 2-3 chapters I would give it 5*****. They are striking in their intensity, imagination, profundity and audacity, and in their ability to provoke thought - we are given a touch of Faust, of Leo Tolstoy and Dante Alighieri all in the space of a few pages. And by then they are a most welcome reprieve. Because at other moments, earlier in the text I was left for long stretches in a state of profound 'ennui'. Cut-to-the-chase Boris I would say! Why so many characters I would add? And why are so many of them so similar? What am I missing? It is like a game of chess with too many rooks, and far far too many pawns! Too many protagonists are given similar 'weightings' and I found myself unable to commit myself to any one of them for any length of time other than to Sister Pelagia and to Bishop Mitrofanii whom we have enjoyed so much earlier in the series. And I suppose I wanted to see a little more of them too. I love your books Boris, but I think I'll take a wee break from Sister Pelagia and from Erast Fandorin for a while; maybe see you again in the springtime?
This is a small gem of a book. One to keep by the bediside table and dip into now and again for a pleasant injection of erudition on the Roman poets an...moreThis is a small gem of a book. One to keep by the bediside table and dip into now and again for a pleasant injection of erudition on the Roman poets and their background, literary context and influence on latter-day literature and poetry.(less)