Anne Zouroudi The Messenger of Athens (2007)
I thought that this book - the first in 'The Greek Detective' series by Anne Zouroudi - was excellent. It has everything: a gruesome crime, a grave injustice, a corrupt police-force, an atmospheric Greek island background, a quirky hero and a touch of divine intervention.
Hermes Diaktoros, literally 'Hermes Messenger' arrives on the Greek island of 'Thiminos' to investigate the death of a young Greek woman who may or may not have committed suicide. The island - dependent as so many are on summer trade and the fishing which can only take place when the weather permits - is a gloomy, dirty, depressing; a very satisfyingly realistic location rather than the idyllic Greek islands of summer tourism. The men of the island are the worst type of misogynists and the women are not much better. The dead woman is suspected to have strayed from the marital bed - the most shaming crime - and no one is interested in raking up what really happened.
Enter Hermes Diaktoros, the 'fat man': impeccably groomed and besuited, apart from his eccentric choice of white tennis shoes; light on his feet despite his size. I loved how the narrative played with the question of Hermes' identity: is he a policeman, a private detective, someone with a private interest in justice? Or is he a relic from the past, literally Hermes the Messenger of the ancient Greek gods, sent to uncover the truth, to right wrongs and administer justice? I guess it would have been too O.T.T. to have him wear Nikes.
It is a fascinating concept and really well done and I can't wait to read the next one in the series.
If you liked this... it'd have to be something with an all-seeing, all-knowing hero who makes the reader join the dots. In an exotic location. And a narrative which cuts between present and past.