When an Albanian husband and wife are found dead in their home, it seems to be an open-and-shut case for Inspector Costas Haritos, a veteran homicide detective on the Athens police force. However, when Greece's celebrity television news reporter goes on air to tell everyone that the case was closed too early, Haritos begins checking to see what he could have missed.
Moments before the reporter goes on air with a surprising break in the story, she is murdered, and Haritos is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery. It won't be easy. He's saddled with a bumbling junior officer and must also contend with higher-ups under the thumbs of news executives who are more concerned with protecting their ratings than finding a killer.
I love reading mysteries written by international authors: Fred Vargas, Andrea Camilleri, Henning Mankell, Ragnar Jónasson, Karin Fossum, and Jane Harper are just a few. It goes without saying that I picked up Deadline in Athens with a great deal of anticipation.
The mystery itself is strong. There's a lot going on besides the reporter's death, and the more Haritos teases out clues, he finds that those clues lead to solving all sorts of cases. If I were the type of reader who concentrates on solving the mystery to the exclusion of all else, I would've been happy with this book. But... I'm not. I'm a character-driven reader, so those all-important fictional people mean a great deal to me. I don't have to like every character in a book. Sometimes it can be therapeutic to loathe one or two and even cheer on their demise. But sometimes what drives a character can mean a great deal to my enjoyment of a book, and those found in Deadline in Athens seem to luxuriate in being mean-spirited jerks.
Costas Haritos has two hobbies: (1) collecting and reading dictionaries, which would be interesting if he did more with them than lay across the bed, crack one open, and then (2) concoct his latest scheme to get even with his wife. According to Haritos, "The first stage of family life is the joy of living together. The second is children. The third and longest stage is getting your own back at every opportunity. When you get to that stage, you know that you're secure and nothing is going to change." At least it's a good match-- his wife sits on the couch, remote control in hand, watching soap operas and scheming how to get back at him. I won't even go into the morning ritual Haritos performs with his junior officer.
One reason why I enjoy reading mysteries written by international authors is the opportunity to learn about other countries and cultures. There's scarcely any of that to be found in Deadline in Athens. Markaris adds "authentic Greek flavor" by naming each and every street Haritos travels down, how bad the traffic is, and how long it takes him to get to his destination (usually in the pouring rain). Ho hum.
If I weren't so interested in the solution to the mystery, I would've stopped reading within the first fifty pages. In the end, I was very happy with the solution and thrilled that my time spent with the grim Costas Haritos was over. For anyone who wants to experience Greek culture, intriguing mysteries, and solid characters, you'd be well advised to read Jeffrey Siger's excellent Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series instead.
Deadline in Athens by Petros Markaris
Translated from the Greek by David Connolly.
Grove Press © 2004
eBook, 304 pages
Police Procedural, #1 Inspector Costas Haritos mystery
Source: Purchased from Amazon.