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The Messenger of Athens    by Anne Zouroudi order for
Messenger of Athens
by Anne Zouroudi
Order:  USA  Can
Reagan Arthur, 2010 (2008)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alexander McCall Smith's recommendation on the front cover of Anne Zouroudi's The Messenger of Athens is the first clue that readers are in for an unusual and sparkling read. What follows is a unique cozy mystery, set on the Greek island of Thiminos, which still seems to be influenced by ancient Olympians.

After a young married woman, Irini Asimakopoulos, falls off a cliff on bleak, impoverished Thiminos, local officials quickly dismiss the case as accidental death (or even suicide) and bury the corpse without an autopsy. Case over? Not so, once fat man Hermes Diaktoros (Hermes Messenger) descends from the ferry and informs the corrupt local police chief that he's been sent from Athens to investigate.

Irini came from the mainland to marry fisherman Andreas Asimakopoulos, still longing for another life and to travel beyond her homeland. Flashbacks show readers how this dissatisfaction with her lot led Irini to dream of Aphrodite and to an affair with a local married man, carpenter Theo. We see how passionately Irini adored Theo but that he ultimately chose 'Conformity over Love.'

Hermes, the well-bred, manicured fat man in his gleaming white canvas tennis shoes - which he calls his 'winged sandals' - steadily unpeels the onion that is this case. He delivers his own brand of justice to all concerned, especially to those who have suffered long and hard for others' faults. All the while, both islanders and readers wonder who he really is.

The case has a surprising resolution that will leave readers anxious for more of investigator Hermes Diaktoros, who tells the guilty that he follows a higher authority, that it is his 'job to see justice is done ... the guilty punished.' Fans of cozies must not miss The Messenger of Athens.

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