Murder in Mykonos

This is a great beach read, and if you’re up for it, you may want to read it while sitting on the beach of the Greek island of Mykonos. This is the first of a series written by a Siger, a retired New York lawyer. He has lived in Mykonos for more than 30 years (20 when this book was published in 2009). There are ten books in the series now.

This is not really a police procedural, though we are watching the chief of police for most of the story; it is really a thriller. Siger has checked all the boxes for the genre.

One week into the chief’s new job, a worker discovers a body in the crypt below the floor of a private church far from the happy tourists crowding the beaches and bars of the island built on tourism. The island is dotted with family churches built centuries ago where a family could worship without going to town and they could bury their dead in the crypt. The investigation discovers that several sets of older bones are not all that old, no more than twenty years.

The powerful mayor of the island puts a lid on any public announcement that might panic the tourist, but when another young woman goes missing the case becomes a race to rescue her before she ends up on a pile of bones. It is a hard fought race taking up nearly half the book. Gird yourself and settle in for the climax.

My disappointment is that it is an American book. Siger does picture the island and its people, but the speech patterns are very American and we get only a little insight into what it means to be a Greek. It is an American story with an American hero set in Greece.

Still, a good read.

Mike Lawrence

A Free Man of Color

Barbara Hambly has written a variety of books, beginning with fantasy. In 1997 she began the Benjamin January series with this book.

This is not a normal book. The story centers on the murder of Angelique, a free woman of color and mistress to a white man of power. The murder takes place at one of the many Mardi Gra dances in New Orleans, the octaroon ball. Benjamin spent several years in Pairs and became a surgeon, but back in New Orleans, he has to revert to his abilities with the piano to make a living.

Did I mention that the story is set in 1830, as the city is slowly being taken over by Americans–men of no class or culture.

The whole book is chock full of cultural conflicts. January’s dark skin has always been an embarrassment to his octaroon mother, though not his white father who sent him to Paris to study. His two sisters are the light brown of prized mistresses, and they do well in the cultural mix with their white benefactors.

January becomes the object of convenience as the scapegoat of the murder, and he has to tread carefully in his efforts to discover the true killer and keep himself alive in the process. Not only that, he has to hope the true killer is not a white man–he could never accuse such a person.

This is a must read story. Hambly does spend more time on the costumes then I want, but she creates a masterpiece of the settings and of the relationships and of the absolute nothingness of the slaves.

Read it. Five stars.

Mike Lawrence