Review: Anne Zouroudi – The Bull of Mithros

Tomorrow, the sixth book in the Greek detective series by Anne Zouroudi is published. In the first book, The Messenger of Athens we were introduced to the protagonist of the series, Hermes Diaktoros, a portly, immaculately dressed detective, who arrives mysteriously on the Greek island of Thiminos and helps solve the murder of a young woman. Over subsequent books, the character has moved to different parts of Greece, some places real and others imagined and put his inimitable touch on the place in his quest to give justice to those who need it. The exact nature of this unusual detective has slowly been unveiled (his first name is a clue) and I was looking forward in The Bull of Mithros to returning to the world of Hermes Diaktoros.

When you read fiction set in Greece, there is a tendency for books to polarise between the urban – which often depicts the underbelly of Greek life, and the rural, where particularly on the islands there can be a ‘cosiness’ to the murders. However, as those who have lived in Greece know, the islands can be a place of violence and deceit and Anne Zouroudi is good at showing what lies beneath the apparent tranquillity of blue skies and whitewashed houses.

In The Bull of Mithros, a vicious burglary takes place and although the criminals manage to flee, an islander disappears as he tries to apprehend them. Seventeen years later, a stranger is tossed overboard from a commercial vessel and is picked up by a local navy boat. The victim, without papers or money, is desperate not to be landed on the island of Mithros and when he is put ashore, it becomes clear that he is being recognised by various islanders. Meanwhile, the boat carrying Hermes Diaktoros is needs repairs and he lands on the island and becomes sucked into a decades old tragedy. Central to the mystery appears to be the disappearance of both the original and a copy of the island’s famous artefact, the Bull of Mithros.

Zouroudi’s book often have an other-worldly feel about them which works so well in relation to the central character. She adds to this feel with small touches, such as retaining the drachma as the currency on the island and by placing parts of the plots in the old fashioned kafenions. The island has a wealthy patron, Vassilis Eliadis, who has made his fortune through shady business dealings and has naturally picked up enemies along the way. Zouroudi portrays well these benefactors in Greek society whose riches are used to control and obfuscate.

The book was a great read as usual which can be enjoyed whether sitting on a Greek island or stuck on rainy Britain.

The previous book in the series, Whispers of Nemesis, won the East Midlands Book Awards in May.

The author’s website is here.