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      NICOLAS VERDAN: THE GREEK WALL.       

Price: £8.99 

Bitter Lemon Press

         

The text on the back of the book describes The Greek Wall as a mystery novel and a political thriller.  The crime that inspires the mystery has simple elements.  A man is beheaded, and apart from the victim only two others are present.  The mystery is which of the two slayed the victim and why.  The murder takes place where a wall is being built to protect the border between Greece and Turkey and control the flow of immigrants.  Money and political status are to be gained from the construction of the wall.   The murderous act is simple to the point of almost being random but those who want to exploit the murder for their interests ensure that there is plenty of intrigue and deception for Agent Evangelos to investigate.

The Greek Wall has the feel of early John Le Carré.  Much has to be revealed before a simple incident or moment and its consequences are understood.  The revelations are exposed not just through the investigations of Agent Evangelos but Verdan taking time to interrupt the investigation and to put a spotlight on key characters.   And, as with Le Carré, political skulduggery ensures that the conclusion is twisted by ambition and deceit.   This is the dark core of political intrigue, establishing the pretence of order when so much that happens is spontaneous and unpredictable. 

Verdan has a comprehensive and alert imagination.   An escape through Athens and the Greek countryside is enhanced by how Verdan describes the Greek way of life in evocative detail.   Even without the drama of modern political life in Greece the book would appeal to anyone who has fond memories of warm Greek evenings and hearing passionate political arguments over a glass of ouzo.

Much of the action takes place around the border and the wall.  The borderland and its people who hover between different countries suggest different elements within the novel.  There is the relationship of the past to the present, the official to the actual, the mix of modern and traditional, hope undermined by resignation and the conflict between truth and lies.  No wonder that Agent Evangelos finds deciding what is right and wrong so difficult.  If faith in the future and others is weakened by the crisis in Greece, it can never be discarded.   Agent Evangelos is a credible investigator.  Verdan has resisted the overused problems that belabour so many modern detectives.  If Evangelos lacks enthusiasm, it is because he is old and has a memory.  The burden Agent Evangelos has to endure is the corrupt society where he is obliged to earn a living.  For a change a reader can enjoy a thriller where the author does not sit on the political fence.   There is also much for the curious to ponder.  Other readers will respond differently to the symbolism of the wall and its importance to the story.  There are also references to Orpheus, a chap who also found himself in different worlds.  Orpheus left the underworld on the condition that he did not look back.  He was obliged to look ahead and face the future.


By Howard Jackson