The latest in Anne Zouroudi's Mysteries of the Greek Detective is The Feast of Artemis, and reading it over the last few days I've been happy to be back in the company of 'The Fat Man', as its central character Hermes Diaktoros is called. If you're not already familiar with Hermes, have a quick look at my post on the first book in the series and you will see that he is no ordinary investigator, and this is a stroke of brilliance on Anne's part. "I travel widely, sometimes to places where newspapers don't reach," he says, and "I work for the highest Authorities, whose interests lie in justice where there's been none," so if you read between the lines it will be clear that he is no mere 'mortal' detective.
In the new novel, Hermes has come to the small town of Dendra at olive harvest time. During the celebratory feast, a young man is badly injured during a fire-jumping contest, but did he fall or was he pushed? Did the accident have anything to do with the age-old, ongoing feud between the Papayiannis clan and the Kapsis family? Is he, Dmitris, the only casualty of that rivalry?
As the fat man settles into the local hotel and gets to know some of the townspeople, his understated style of questioning and uncanny ability to grasp a situation and 'read' a person means he soon sees what's been going on in Dendra. He is shrewd, observant, and his understanding of human nature is second to none. As he links the chains of cause and effect, offence and retribution, his investigation is not simply a matter of seeing justice done, for his benevolent side comes into play, too, as he has ways and means of helping those who need it, and aid of one kind or another is dispensed along the way while wrongs are righted and people get their just deserts.
Perhaps that should be just desserts for food is the connecting theme of the story, and as the series is based around the seven deadly sins, in this book we see what gluttony can do. Throughout the novel, dishes of all kinds are described in mouth-watering fashion; the people of Dendra are olive farmers and wine growers, ice cream makers, hoteliers and cafe owners who pride themselves on the quality of what they put on their tables, food is at the centre of things and not just to add bite. This aspect of Greek culture is rightly made much of, and if you're a reader who savours that sort of thing in a book, The Feast of Artemis is for you.
Back to Hermes for a moment, though, for his family story is fleshed out a little by the appearance of his wine-loving, womanising half-brother, Dino ... short for Dionysus? The central conceit of the series works here in fine form!
In sum, beautifully written, expertly plotted and paced, and a great pleasure to read.