Zone Defence by Petros Markaris
|Zone Defence by Petros Markaris|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: The third Inspector Haritos novel, set mainly in Athens, investigates the murky worlds of football, politics and organised crime. It's fast-moving, well written and has a satisfying ending. Markaris is a little-known writer who deserves to be more widely read.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: November 2006|
|Publisher: Harvill Secker|
Inspector Costas Haritos of the Athens Homicide Division found that there was no such thing as a holiday when an earthquake revealed a body on the beach of the Greek island. Back in Athens he's given another murder to investigate - that of a local nightclub owner, who has been gunned down in the street. The family of the dead man seem unwilling to give much help and pressure is put on Haritos to file the murder as unsolved. On top of all this it seems that the Inspector's health is about to let him down.
I'd never encountered Costas Haritos or his creator Petros Markaris before I was given this book, but I've always had a soft spot for Athens and that part of the Saronic Gulf. I was tempted to dive in despite the fact that this is the third book in the Haritos series, but it can be read as a stand-alone novel without any problems.
Every time I go to Greece it breaks my heart and Markaris sums up exactly why. There's the holiday island, prone to earthquakes and threaded through with corruption. Then there's Athens, sitting in a soup bowl of heat, smog and traffic jams. Like the island there's corruption but on a grander scale and Haritos encounters organised crime along with some dubious goings-on in the worlds of football and politics. Even market research is not all that it might be. Add to this the necessity to consider giving a back-hander if you're in hospital and you'll see that it's a very shady world indeed.
I liked Haritos. He's refreshingly un-PC ("I can stand anything but racism and blacks" - and I still don't know if he was being ironic when he said it) and a family man who is always going to be outwitted by his wife and daughter. I loved the little manipulations which the family practice on each other. The main characters are all well-developed. There's actually a cast of thousands - well, seventy people qualify to be included in the Dramatis Personae at the beginning of the book and with similar names this can be a little confusing. You might be as well avoiding the Dramatis Personae other than in desperation - having read it early on there were one or two revelations which were not a surprise to me.
What I would have liked instead of a Dramatis Personae is a map of Athens and the surrounding area. There are a number of descriptions of journeys which would mean more with some knowledge of the city. Saying that it takes so long to get from point A to point B doesn't mean a great deal if the reader has little idea of where they are.
I'm quibbling though, because this is a good story. The pace is fast and even when Haritos is in hospital it doesn't drop. The detail of what does go on in the murky world of football is compelling. The title of the book - Zone Defence - comes from the game where as one defence is breached another is there to protect the goal. It's a perfect description of the layers which protect the criminals in this case. There are plenty of plots and sub-plots to keep the reader entertained and the denouement is satisfying and pulls all the strands together.
Translation from the original Greek is by David Connolly and he's produced a very readable text. On occasions he had to translate from the Greek what Haritos said in bad English - and he managed to do it with skill.
I'll be looking out for the two booksin the series - Deadline in Athens/ The Late-Night News. I hope too that there will be a follow-up to this book.
My thanks to the publishers, Harvill Secker, for sending this book.
If this type of book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander novels. Faceless Killers would be a good starting point.
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