Hermes Diaktoros visits a remote island which is home to an ancient icon famed for its miraculous powers. But something about the Virgin troubles him, and Hermes calls on an old friend to confirm his suspicions that the icon is a fake.
Ready to hand the matter over to the authorities, Hermes intends to leave – until the island’s icon painter is found dead at sea.
Did he die of natural causes or by a wrathful hand? What secret is a dishonest gypsy keeping? And what haunts the ancient catacombs beneath the bishop’s house?
In the Lady of Sorrows, our enigmatic white-shoed detective must deal with forgery, betrayal and superstition, and the consequences of all-consuming rage.
The Lady of Sorrows by Anne Zouroudi is the fourth in the series of ‘The Greek Detective’ Hermes Diaktoros, a wise all-seeing, all-knowing visitor who arrives at the island of Kalkos where a famous icon of is housed in the church of Our Lady of Sorrows. She is venerated and revered and has been on the island since 1863, when drowning fishermen were shown the way to safety by a vision of the Virgin Mary. She is not, however, Greek but Russian so how did she come to be here in this out of the way place? Hermes feels that the icon is a fake and calls upon an old friend to confirm his suspicions and to hand the matter over to the authorities until the island’s icon painter is found dead at sea with his grandson half drowned beside him. On the face of it a natural death, after all the painter Sotiris is an old man with suspected heart problems, but the Fat Man is not convinced and he decides to stay on Kalkos a little longer to see if he can find out the truth.
I simply love these books. I have read and reviewed two previous titles, The Messenger of Athens, The Taint of Midas but not it appears The Doctor of Thessaly (seems I did not write about this title, not sure why but hasten to add that I thought it was excellent) and now the latest which I think is the best so far. I mentioned in a post earlier this month when I was looking at the books of Alistair McCall Smith and Donna Leon how the background and setting is so vital for the enjoyment of these books and I feel the same with those of Anne Zouroudi. All with a Greek background, obviously, and it is clear that the author has a strong love and attachment to Greece. As with Leon and Venice, we have a strong central character who we are getting to know and love with each book, we see him in beautifully described geographical locations and then, the food….oh how I love the descriptions of the food!
“Enrico had prepared papoutsakia, little shoes – aubergines filled with garlic rich meat sauce, baked with a cheese topped bechamel. A salad of tomatoes and red onions was dressed with virgin olive oil and sprinkled with ferns of fresh dill. There was a half loaf of still warm bread…..and a bottle of cold rose”
“The fat man had breakfasted on purple figs, yoghurt and honey and a slice of moist almond cake”
“…on the platter was a fish; a large red snapper charred in dark stripes where it had rested on the barbecue grill, its eyes baked white, its fins and skin crisp. Arragedc round it on the platter were four quarters of lemon. The fat man stood up from his chair, clapped Ilias on the back and hugged him”
See what I mean? Doesn’t that just make your mouth water?
But please don’t think these books are all about scenery and food, they are not. Hermes Diaktoros is a bringer and dispenser of justice, his origins are mysterious and he seems to bow to no higher authority. The Guardian says that he is ‘half Poirot, half deus ex machina, but far more earth bound than his first name suggests….Diaktoros is a delight”.
I am not about to argue with this description but my feeling is that Hermes is slightly less earth bound than this comment states. “I am not a policeman. There is no police force in Greece which would hire me. My employers are higher authorities”.
The fat man comes and goes and seems to have no residence, no permanent abode, but vanishes once justice has been done and wrongs righted. He is full of warmth, understanding and humanity as well as humour and is a wonderful creation. I fell in love with him in the very first book and look forward to each one with huge anticipation. I hope Anne Zouroudi keeps writing these for a long time to come.
Oh and by the way – Hermes is the Winged Messenger of the Gods.
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