The Taint of Midas – Anne Zouroudi

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Anne Zouroudi has a couple of novels with the fat man, her enigmatic, Buddha-like detective Hermes Diaktoros, calmly righting life’s little and large wrongs without creasing his bespoke linen jacket or messing up his meticulously maintained white canvas sneakers. The Taint of Midas is about greed–and murder, of course, and corruption and a sleepy village on the Greek island of Arcadia. It read like a literary novel rather than a slick genre mystery. The descriptions of the food, the light falling on old stone and the Aegean, the small ruin of the Temple of Apollo on a hilltop with the best view on the island, all of them are beautiful and quietly cinematic. Hermes is a terrific character and the others are colorful and believable.

The old beekeeper, Gabrilis Kaloyeros, is still farming his hillside, selling his melons at a stall down in the village, caretaking what’s left of the ruined shrine. But his wife has been dead for some time and he is slowly letting go of his grasp on things–the glasses are gone and he can’t read what’s put in front of him to sign. The cottage is moldering, dusty, cluttered. The dishes go unwashed as do his few shabby clothes. He keeps the bees fairly well. But, on the way to sell his melons, he meets up with violence on the deserted road into town, a random accident that becomes a homicide.

The fat man finds him soon after he dies and determines to see justice done. And then we are plunged into a tangled web of shady developers, corrupt public servants, good cops, bad cops and cops with a lot to learn. Hermes Diaktoros doesn’t move quickly in the heat of late summer. But his deliberate style masks a formidable will and a fierce intellect and he discovers all the secrets while managing to keep his own.

The Taint of Midas opened a world to inhabit for the space of the book and it was worth the time spent there. Zouroudi captures contemporary Greece in all its unromantic complexity and she writes like a dream. A very good book and a clear incentive to look for its prequel The Messenger of Athens. I would like to know more about the fat man–maybe he gives away a few more clues in the inaugural book.  

The Taint of Midas: A Novel   Anne Zouroudi | Reagan Arthur Books   2008

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