On March 25th, Greek Independence Day, John Petrakis, distinguished professor of ancient history, is booked to give a lecture to the Aegina Historical Society. He never makes it: shot through with the bathroom window of the house of one of his dearest friends while taking a shower. His brother, Constantine, despite his lack of filial sentiment and despairing of the police’s tardiness, recruits George Zafiris, private detective based in Athens, to investigate the murder. As George tries to unravel the mystery, another of his cases is becoming increasingly murky, with the unexplained death of a politician engaged in an extramarital affair.
At least he would absorb some of the civic ideals of northern Europe. Fairness, transparency, equality of opportunity, consonance of word and deed, impartial enforcement of the law – these to Nick would be realities, not fairy tales for the ignorant, to be aired at election time then cynically set aside
to which I can only say If only!
The title refers to the names taken by the members of a society run by a retired colonel, any of whom might own the gun that killed the historian. Unfortunately the colonel, although he shows willing to assist with George’s enquiries, suffers from dementia and is unable to remember who is who.
I wasn’t so sure of the denouement – it all seemed to get wrapped up too quickly and with the finger pointed at a character we hadn’t previously known existed – but, not being a typical crime reader, I consulted Mr Annecdotist, who is. Given that we disagree on many things, I was heartened to find him with me on this one. Nevertheless, if you fancy a light read that gets under the skin of the Greek nation in its modern and ancient manifestations, you wouldn’t go far wrong with Codename Xenophon. It’s especially timely today when Greeks are going to the polls with the possibility of electing a new anti-austerity government. Thanks to Dedalus Books (publishers of God’s Dog, which spawned one of my most popular posts) for my review copy.