While my bazouki gently weeps

I picked up Anne Zouroudi's The Lady of sorrows in my local library. I like Eurocops and crime generally, and although I'd never heard of her before one of the earlier books in the Greek detective series appeared to have been well reviewed. Hermes Diaktoros (also known as the fat man and the eponymous Greek detective) was described as a Poirot-type character. Sounded great, just my kind of thing.

It wasn't a bad read, but I did finish the novel feeling rather disappointed. Hermes is no Poirot, his nearest relative, I suspect, would be Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe. And although the mystery was engaging enough, it was all a bit disappointing. An icon painter dies in strange circumstances around the time that it is discovered that his church's most valued icon is a forgery, Hermes Diaktoros, a private detective, who has discovered the forgery investigates...

It's a gentle slow read - if you like Alexander McCall Smith, you'll almost certainly enjoy this, it is written in a very similar style. But it lacks both the humour and the human insight of McCall Smith, while the bringing together of the elements of the crime story seems to be more by luck than by any real process of forensic reasoning - disappointing for a crime aficionado. While the forgery story itself is dealt with much better by Iain Pears in Death and restoration, one of the superb Jonathan Argyll art history mystery series.

The other thing that I found disappointing was the background to the story - it's set in Greece, and yet the country never really leaps off the page. It should have been as important an element as Venice is to Donna Leon, or Istanbul to Barbara Nadal, or as Greece itself is to Mary Stewart. But somehow that vibrancy was missing, we were reduced to a country of bazoukis and earthquakes, and not a scent of anything beyond the cliches.

It's pleasant, it helps you pass a few hours, but it's not a novel that's going to make you want to rush out to buy more of the series. And disappointingly it's not going to make you want to buy a one-way ticket to Athens either.


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