The third and fourth installments of the Seven Deadly Sins mysteries by Anne Zouroudi arrived together at my local Montgomery County, Maryland public library, one from Harford County, and the other from Washington County. What would I do without inter-library loans?
The third installment, The Doctor of Thessaly (2009), is set in the poor coastal village of Morfi, home to a collection of sour, unfriendly people. The investigating god, Hermes, arrives in the town to fix his car and finds an apparently jilted middle-aged bride and a groom cruelly blinded by an attacker he did not see in the churchyard of St. Paraskevi. There are two doctors: a Greek one, who has retired, and a French one, who took over the practice; this is the blinded suitor. But who would want to blind the town’s doctor? Was it the bride’s older unmarried sister whose jealousy of her sister’s changing fortunes drove her to do this evil deed? Or was someone taking revenge on the good doctor? And if so, for what? I will only say that the crime committed here was one I had never even heard of before. And in the end, of course, the wrong-doers and the victims alike get their just desserts.
The Lady of Sorrows (2010) takes place on the island of Kalki, home of the famous shipwrecked icon of the title. Here, the fat man (Hermes) draws on the expertise of his friend Kara Athaniti, an art historian, to help unravel a mystery behind the icon. Again, we meet some of the townspeople; all are damaged in some way, except possibly young Sammy, grandson of the old icon painter, who dies suddenly while fishing with Sammy, apparently poisoned. But as usual, the explanation requires some expert sleuthing as well as intuition and understanding of human nature on the part of the fat man, who discovers that the dark secrets of a dysfunctional family have resulted in the untimely death.
I always enjoy the passages which highlight the fat man’s connection to the ancient religion, as in the following from The Doctor of Thessaly. Speaking to the simpleminded Adonis Anapodos (great nickname! It means “Adonis Upside-Down”) in the church dedicated to the Orthodox saint Paraskevi, he explains:
“Do you see this inscription? That lady on the walls is an interloper, an intruder. She and her servants have no more than squatters’ rights. This place belongs to someone else; there’s a much older claim than theirs.”
Fascinated, Adonis crouched beside the fat man to read the ancient lettering. When he spoke again, his stammer was forgotten.
“What does it say?” he asked. “Whose building is it really?”
“Hard to say, for certain,” said the fat man. There’s an A there. Apollo, Asclepius, Aphrodite. Someone, anyway, with better credentials than your Johnny-come-lately nun.”
Such passages may not make Zouroudi’s books very popular with many Greeks, to whom “Greek” and “Orthodox Christian” have merged into a single concept. They cannot imagine a Greek who is not Orthodox. But Hermes Diaktoros, with the perfectly enunciated Greek of a newscaster, may be the quintessential Greek. Like Mma Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, he looks to the old ways and traditions as he goes about the business of righting wrongs and meting out justice.
I am looking forward to reading the remaining three mysteries in the series!