Archive for March 7, 2012

Ashes is a good read, but perhaps it should be read at a time when the reader is feeling optimistic about the world and their life.  

It is a very dark and depressing book, and for me it was  a difficult read as I did not realise how badly the harsh story it would affect me. Ashes is about an arson attack on a house in which, an old man, a young woman and her 3-year old daughter are killed, and a once famous actress Sonia Varika is badly burned and left in a coma. 

The story is told from three perspectives by the victim Sonia [a back story in italics], by Police Colonel Chronis Haldikis, Head of Internal Affairs, and by elderly lawyer Simeon Piertovanis. Despite the fact that the evidence shows that the fire was arson Haldikis is told by his superiors to list it as an accident, because powerful people want it hushed up. Among the reasons for not investigating is that Greece must appear to be a modern successful country with the approaching 2004 Olympic games. Chronis and Simeon had both been Sonia’s lovers in the past, and Chronis recruits the lawyer to a small team to find out who perpetrated the crime and why. 

As the story proceeds we learn that Sonia and Simeon’s lives have been ravaged by alcohol, and that Chronis requires regular topping up with cocaine to function. This is a tale of ruined people, in a country ruined by greed and corruption; sections of  a politically motivated police force, and gangs of anabolic steroid enhanced fascists are working with seedy property developers to make the country a living hell. The book was published in Greece in 2007 just before the wheels fell off the economy, something exacerbated by the level of political corruption. 

“Junta-socialist” was the least offensive nickname for Attica’s Police Chief, a commander ho, after gorging on half a suckling-pig washed down with ten litres of beer, would often argue that the only politicians who had genuinely cared about the country were Andreas Papandreou, the founder of the socialist P.A.S.O.K.  party, and George Papadopoulos, one of the three colonels who engineered the ’67 coup. 

I think that politicians are the people who should read crime fiction books like Ashes, even if they might find it uncomfortable reading recognizing themselves in the narratives or even learning that their policies are the cause rather than the cure for nation’s problems.

………….listened to the 11.00 p.m.news on the car radio and tried really hard to persuade myself that the fatty, who in a couple of months would become prime minister, was our saviour and would deliver us from financial ruin and corruption.

One lesson that could be learned from reading Ashes is not to interfere in other people’s wars, as you might eventually get the blame when things go wrong.

“Well, you know whose fault it is?” ‘How would I know I am only a civil servant.”

“The ‘Great Powers’. If they hadn’t interfered back then, everything would be alright today.”

“Which ‘back then’ are you talking about?”

“The Battle of Navarino. Wasn’t that when it all started?”

[The Battle of Navarino 1827:when the British, French and Russian fleets destroyed the Egyptian and Turkish fleets during the Greek War of Independence]

A clever book and even if Chronis Halkidis doesn’t do things by the book, an understatement, he is an interesting protagonist coping as best he can in a very damaged society. I shall look out for the next in the series because it will be fascinating to see how Chronis copes with the economic collapse of his country.