When the body of a boy from one of Greece's most prominent families turns up in a dumpster in one of Athens' worst neighborhoods, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis of the Greek Police's Special Crimes Division is certain there's a message in the murder. But who sent it and why? Andreas' search for answers takes him deep into the sordid, criminal side of Athens nightlife and then to the glittering world of Athens society where age-old frictions between old and new money breed jealousy, murder, revenge, revolutionaries, and some very dangerous truths. It is a journey amid ruthless, powerful adversaries that brings Andreas face-to-face with old grudges, new emotions, ancient Athenian practices, and modern political realities once thought unimaginable.
About the Author
The New York Times described Jeffrey Siger 's novels as "thoughtful police procedurals set in picturesque but not untroubled Greek locales," the Greek Press called his work "prophetic," Eurocrime described him as a "very gifted American author...on a par with other American authors such as Joseph Wambaugh or Ed McBain," and the City of San Francisco awarded him its Certificate of Honor citing that his "acclaimed books have not only explored modern Greek society and its ancient roots but have inspired political change in Greece." An Aegean April is the ninth novel in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, following up on his internationally best-selling Murder in Mykonos , Assassins of Athens , Prey on Patmos , Target: Tinos , Mykonos After Midnight , Sons of Sparta , Devil of Delphi , Santorini Caesars , and An Aegean April.
Read an Excerpt
Assassins of Athens
By Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2010 Jeffrey Siger
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAndreas Kaldis once read or heard somewhere that the chatter never stopped in Athens. Not even at sunrise, when the earth itself seemed to pause to draw a breath. Like its people, the city always had something to say, whether you were in the mood to listen or not. Sun-up simply shifted the style of conversation from high-pitched shouts of an Athens at play to the anonymous din of a city at work.
That's what Andreas was doing now, working. "Turn off the damn siren, no one's listening." He was in a foul mood. "The body's going nowhere. Just like us in this goddamn coming-home-from-partying morning traffic."
Police officer Yianni Kouros said nothing, just did what his boss told him to do. That's why Andreas liked him: he listened.
Andreas stared out the passenger-side window at a hodgepodge of neglected private and graffiti-covered government buildings. This section of Pireos Street, a formerly elegant avenue, began west of the Acropolis, ran northeast through the trendy, late-night bar and club area of Gazi, and ended with a name change amidst the around-the-clock drug and hooker trade by Omonia Square. What remained of its once-treasured three-and four-story buildings were now warrens of ground-level check cashers, bars, small-time retail shops, and cheap, foreign restaurants. It seemed every immigrant group in Greece had set up shop in this part of town. Truth was, they were everywhere; well, almost.
"I remember when I was a kid my dad used to bring me down here for sweets on Sundays. Especially this time of year. He loved late spring."
"Bet he wouldn't bring you here today, Chief."
Andreas nodded. "God bless him, he'd sit by the edge of the park at Omonia—" gesturing up ahead with his left hand, "having coffee with friends while I'd play. Everyone liked him. I thought that came with being a cop. I should have known better."
They were locked in traffic packed solid up to an intersection about one hundred yards ahead. The traffic light at the corner was red and, when a gap opened in oncoming traffic all the way back to the light, Kouros pulled the unmarked car into the empty lane and raced toward the intersection.
"Christ, Yianni, at least turn on the lights."
"Never turned them off, only the siren." Another reason Andreas liked Kouros: he listened but was no fool.
Kouros reached the intersection just as the light turned green. He swerved across the front of their lane and shot up the street to the right, narrowly missing the rear wheel of a motorcyclist who'd jumped the light.
Andreas turned his head and stared at Kouros. He knew there must be a grin breaking out somewhere on the other side of that face. Andreas was a dozen years older than Kouros but, except for the few tinges of gray streaking Andreas' slightly too long dark hair, you'd think they were the same age, perhaps because Kouros' boot-camp style haircut and compact, bull-like build made him look older than he was, or because Andreas' hard work at keeping his six-foot two-inch athletic frame in shape paid off.
Kouros weaved through a series of far-from-fancy back streets running roughly parallel to Pireos. Just before Omonia he turned left and cut back across the road. "It's only a couple blocks from here."
Andreas watched a hooker lean out from a doorway marked by a single white light above it, the local signal for "hookers here."
"Yeah, probably another drug deal gone bad."
"Don't know yet, but something tied to drugs would be my guess. Dawn on a Sunday morning, this neighborhood, a foreign-looking young male in a dumpster, no money, no ID, no witnesses, no one with him, and no one looking for him. At least not so far." Andreas shrugged. "We'll see."
Two minutes later Kouros pulled up to a uniformed officer leaning against the hood of a marked blue and white Athens police car. It blocked anyone from going down a narrow, alley-size street just south of where Saint Constantino Avenue ran into Karaiskaki Square. "It's Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, Special Crimes Division, Athens Headquarters," said Kouros.
Even a year and a half after his promotion, Andreas still marveled that he was the guy with that fancy title. It posed no such problem for Kouros; he'd only known Andreas as "chief." First, as newly appointed chief of police for the Aegean island of Mykonos and, six months later, by his current title dating from when Andreas returned to Athens—bringing Kouros with him—to assume command of the same unit he'd been forced to leave for doing too good a job at catching politically connected bad guys. But Andreas' political allies proved to be a hell of a lot tougher than theirs, something Andreas reminded them of every chance he got.
They drove the hundred yards or so to where the cop said to go. There were no yards or open spaces along the way, only the back doors of buildings lining both sides. The buildings to the right fronted on a main street running back into Karaiskaki Square and were commercial; the ones to the left were a mix of smaller businesses and apartment buildings facing onto a side street. Everything was rundown, typical for this neighborhood. Kouros stopped at a thirty-foot-wide break on the left, an open lot that went through to the side street, or would have but for a row of weather-beaten plywood fencing it off at the edge of the street. Some of it had been kicked in, probably by junkies and street-hooker trade looking for a place to do their business.
An ambulance from the coroner's office and two marked cars from the Saint Constantino police precinct were parked ahead of them on the other side of the break. This part of town fell under their jurisdiction, until now.
Andreas' unit was in charge of all murder investigations and any other crimes he considered serious enough to warrant special attention. It was a unique position in a politically sensitive department, one that many envied, but far more feared. He was not someone to fuck with.
"So, what do we have, Manos?" he said to the man in plainclothes hurrying toward him.
"Morning, sir. A white male, late teens, early twenties, about six feet, 160 pounds. Dead about five hours. Appears to be strangled."
"Did anyone touch the body?"
A man from the coroner's office standing next to a forensic technician gestured "no" with his head. "We were waiting for you, Chief." Manos hesitated.
"Did anyone touch the body?" Andreas said in a slightly sharper tone looking straight at Manos.
"Yes, sir. The officer who responded to the call was a rookie and—"
"Is he here?" "Yes."
"Call him over." Andreas knew from the initial report of "no wallet or ID" that someone must have touched the body, but there was a point to be made to the rookie and his supervisor.
The young cop looked almost as white as the corpse. No doubt he was wondering to what worse precinct he possibly could be banished for this screw-up.
Andreas leveled his steel-gray eyes on him. "You were the first one on the scene?"
"Yes, sir," he answered nervously.
"What did you see?"
"A body in that dumpster over there." He pointed to a partially green, partially rusted, commercial-size bin against the wall across the lot from where they stood. It was close to the street.
"And what was the first fucking thing you did, strip-search him?" Andreas' voice was rising, driving home his point.
"I thought it important to know who he was. I only touched pockets I could reach without moving the body." His voice was about to crack.
Andreas was not pleased with the answer, and his tone showed it. "It's a damn lot more important to know who killed him. That's why you're trained and—" turning his eyes on Manos, "supposedly reminded by your shift commanders NEVER to touch a body unless told otherwise by someone from homicide. Understand?" He said the last word softly, his eyes moving between the two men.
"Yes, sir." The words came from both men in two-part harmony.
Andreas walked over to the dumpster and peered inside. Without looking back he said, "Was the lid up when you got here?"
"No, sir," said the rookie.
"How did you open it?"
"With my baton." Again his voice was shaky.
"Good." Andreas believed in praising the good along with damning the bad.
The container was nearly full, packed with commercial-size black garbage bags. The body was on top: face up, eyes closed. Andreas always dreaded these first moments staring at the face of a once-living, unique being now reduced to the ubiquitous status of victim. Andreas felt a shiver. This was not the face of a man. It was a boy.
"You didn't close his eyes by chance did you?"
"No, sir, I never touched the body, only his clothes." He almost barked his answer.
Andreas looked at the man from the coroner's office. "Can you tell me if he died like that, or someone closed his eyes for him?"
"I'd guess someone did it for him."
"I can guess on my own, Spiros. I want to know if you can tell me for sure."
"So, whose garbage is this?"
"Belongs to that bar over there." Manos pointed to the back door of a building directly across from the lot. "It's a notorious late-hours gay bar, lot of drugs in there. Our guess is that the victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time, looking for the wrong thing."
"And just how did he happen to end up in the dumpster?"
Manos seemed surprised at the question. "Whoever killed him hid the body there to make time to get away before someone found it. This part of the street gets pretty busy late at night, especially just before sunrise when the bar closes." He finished the last part with a smirk.
"I bet it does." Andreas again looked in the dumpster. "So, where's last night's garbage?"
Manos again looked puzzled. "What do you mean? It's in the dumpster."
"I see, so when the bar closed last night, probably around sunrise from what you said, whoever dumped the garbage carefully placed it around the body or pulled him out, put the bags in, and then tossed him back on top?"
Manos' face was beet-red. Andreas didn't wait for an answer. "Have you spoken with anyone from the bar?"
"No one's there yet."
"When you talk to the guy who dumped the garbage, I'm sure he'll swear there was no body in the dumpster when he did. But that corpse has been dead a lot longer than since sunrise." Andreas shook his head. "I don't think this is the murder scene. Somebody picked this place to dump the body."
He gestured for Kouros to get a camera from the car. "We've got a lot more going on here than just some kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. And who said he's foreign?"
The rookie raised his hand. "He looks a lot like the Eastern Europeans living around here."
"With all the intermarriages, so do a lot of Greeks. This kid could be Greek, and if I get a better look at the ring on his finger I might know for sure." The coroner started toward the body.
Andreas put out his hand to stop him. "No, Spiros, don't. I want everything videotaped exactly as it is before anyone touches the body. I'll get what I need from this." He took the camera from Kouros, leaned back in and took a few pictures.
"So, let's see what we have."
He brought one of the photos up onto the screen on the back of the camera and zoomed in on what he wanted to see. "Damn handy, these things." He stared for a moment; everyone was quiet. "Gotcha!" He practically shouted the word.
Manos and Kouros moved in for a closer look at the screen. It was a blurry image of a crest from a ring, but distinct enough to make out the emblem of Athens Academy, the most prestigious private school in all of Greece: the place where the richest and most powerful sent their children to study and, more important, to network a life for themselves and, on occasion, for their parents. Next to the crest was the year of graduation: one year from now.
"He's just a boy, and I bet he's no foreigner," said Andreas. He'd also bet, but didn't say aloud, that a media circus was about to begin. He looked up from the image of the ring and over to the dumpster, then to the backdoor of perhaps the seediest gay bar in the seediest section of Athens. What more could the press ask for? It was a story they could run with forever.
Whoever set this up knew that, too. Anyway you looked at it, Andreas sensed this was going to get real messy, real fast. He looked at Manos. "What did the guy who called your precinct say? That he'd found the body while rummaging through dumpsters?"
"Something like that. Sounded like a bum, wouldn't leave a name."
Andreas shook his head. "Whoever set this up wanted the body to be found here. He wouldn't leave that to chance. Find your caller and we find our killer. Trace that call ASAP."
Manos almost seemed to snicker. "We're way ahead of you, Chief. Already did the trace. It gave us nothing. We even called the number and no one answered. It's for one of those disposable cell phones you can buy anywhere. This one was activated last night."
Andreas shook his head. "Gave you nothing, huh? Like a fucking destitute bum rummaging through garbage bins would buy a cell phone to call in a dead body. Yianni, let's get out of here. We've got some catching up to do. Someone definitely is way ahead of us." He stared at Manos long enough to get the point across without saying the words, but it's not you.
Chapter TwoZanni Kostopoulos looked at his watch. It was still early. His assistant wasn't due in for another half-hour. Things weren't going as planned and he worried the media might turn on him. They would for sure if they ever found out. He tried not to think about it.
Zanni wasn't an easy man to get to know, and an even tougher one to like. He'd achieved his wealth the old fashioned way: stolen, bribed, and laundered for it. And, if the truth to rumor could be measured by its persistence, he'd killed for it more than once. Today, though, the Kostopoulos name was "a pillar of Athenian society." At least that's what his third wife paid several publicists to get virtually every society reporter in Greece to repeat ad nauseam. If you linked "respected international businessman" and "philanthropist" to a name long enough, people started believing it. Or so went the theory.
Mrs. Kostopoulos' plan certainly had worked on her husband; Zanni was intoxicated with himself, never missing a word uttered about him in the media, and bothered to no end when the press did not grasp that his vast fortune made him right in all things and deserving of public esteem equivalent to his wealth. Each morning, the assistant he'd hired solely for the purpose of keeping track of his fame gave him a folio containing clippings and tapes of every recorded mention of his name in the past twenty-four hours. His mood for the next twenty-four depended upon the size of the package she handed him.
Where is she? Zanni stepped away from his desk and paced around the room. He'd experienced the media turning on him before and didn't like it one bit. That last run-in was what got him into this current mess. At least that was his take on it. He still bristled at the memory of his public battle with the owner of Athens' most popular soccer team. As Zanni saw it, the owner was no different than he—both had returned from family exile in the former Soviet bloc to amass vast, newly-minted Greek fortunes—and yet, Zanni was forever in the other man's shadow. Zanni's decision to attempt wresting control of the team away from his rival wasn't made for business reasons; he did it because he believed the team was the source of the other's prominence.
Two such famous boys fighting over a nationally popular toy had every headline writer and talk show host in frenzy for weeks. It was a bitter fight with a rival at least as tough as he was and resulted in an even more bitter loss. Zanni felt he'd been singled out by the media for ridicule, and looked for someone other than himself to blame for his humiliation. He settled on an easy target: old-line Athens society. Many old-liners barely hid their distain for what they considered upstart, political opportunist, nouveaux riches. Accusing them of relishing his fall was undoubtedly accurate. What he couldn't accept, though, was the obvious fact that old-line society would prefer both men to perish in the press.
Excerpted from Assassins of Athens by Jeffrey Siger Copyright © 2010 by Jeffrey Siger. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A real Greek Tragedy. Inspector Kaldis involve himself in a murder case involving a young student, a child of a wealthy family that had been trying to take over the most prestigious News Paper in Athens. The murder was made to look like a simple case of a young person experimenting with drugs and sex at a homosexual hang out that just got out of hand and he died through self indulgence. Inspector Andreas Kaldis and his associate, police officer Yianni Kouros found inconsistencies that caused them to look deeper into the death. They became involved in many layers of political intrigue and found they were opposed by some of the most powerful men in government, part of the traditional wealthy ruling classes in Athens. They also discovered the roots of an ancient system of driving the unwanted out of Athens social elite, using a banishment system based on the secret threat of death to one or more family members with a typical ten day deadline. The inspector and his officer mixed with the worst villains whether at the bottom of the social system (prostitutes, druggies and pimps) or at the very top of the wealthy social society (captains of industry, politicians and historical wealthy as well as nouveaux rich). Their efforts lead them to determining the guilty but, in Greece, not all justice is equal and frequently the connected guilty are able to avoid all prosecution except that brought directly by the injured party. Realistic policemen take justice where it can be found. Great mystery with many convolutions that are unwound as the inspector and his associates work towards protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty. An exotic location with all the trappings expected in an ancient civilization from the local quarried stone pathways to ancient pottery shards used to communicate messages. Not only a good story but, a window to another place and time.
Publisher's Weekly wrote of this novel: "Readers may not totally buy the book's audacious premise or the spontaneous combustion between the straight-arrow inspector and a wealthy socialite, but that shouldn't spoil this suspenseful trip through the rarely seen darker strata of complex, contemporary Greece." And they are right. But the fact remains that it is an enjoyable tale, well told if a bit uneven. Perhaps the author plays a little too much cat and mouse with the reader, but it's all part of the fun. If corruption and murder are your idea of fun. The author takes advantage of the growing cynicism of the public towards its leaders, and we readily hope that one honest cop can bring them all to justice.
Jeffrey Siger's ASSASSINS OF ATHENS opens with the discovery of the body of a teenage male in a dumpster in one of the worst sections of Athens. Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis of the Greek Police's Special Crimes Division, first met in MURDER IN MYKONOS, quickly realizes that this case is bigger than most. The boy is the son of Zanni Kostopoulos, one of the most influential men in the country. Kostopoulos is nouveau riche, a description that makes him anathema to the established Greek families who dominate the peak of society. He has returned from family exile in the one of the countries that had made up the Soviet bloc and, upon his return, has made a considerable fortune in Greece. Old money fears new money and the newly wealthy have little to lose in going up against the establishment. Zanni decides he needs to make the Kostopoulos name one to be reckoned with so he decides to gain control of The Athenian, the most prominent newspaper in the city. The Linardos family has controlled the paper for generations and Zanni does everything in his power to destroy the Linardos family to get what he wants. He begins by feeding other newspapers the Linardos family secrets and thinks he has won when a particularly graphic cell phone recording of Sarantis Linardos's granddaughter ends up on the web. Kostopoulos is determined to destroy the Linardos family so Sarantis, the patriarch, turns to friends to guarantee that it will be Kostopoulos who will be destroyed. This is the background to a story that brings into play wealth, position, long-held grudges, jealousy, murder, and the practices of ancient Athens, seemingly lost in time. There is kidnapping, murder, exploitation, and the willingness of people to uses whatever means money can buy to destroy an enemy. There is help from Tassos Stamatos, the homicide detective readers met in MURDER IN MYKONOS. And there is a woman who is of particular interest to Kaldis. As he investigates, Kaldis discovers that Sotiros Kostopoulos is not the first member of a prominent family to die. Other wealthy Greek families have left the country, banished as was the practice in ancient Greece. Their enemies have no respect for age so it is the young, the children, who are their target. ASSASSINS OF ATHENS is more than an alliterative title. Athens, the cradle of democracy, is being assassinated by powerful people who want a return to oligarchy, government by the few, the wealthy and powerful, to the detriment of the many. Jeffrey Siger's second book proves that MURDER IN MYKONOS was the product of a writer well-worth reading.
In Athens, Greece, Police Chief Inspector of the Special Crimes Division Andreas Kaldis arrives at a rundown part of the city to look at a corpse found amongst garbage in a dumpster. At GADA, Andreas' secretary Maggie Sikestis sees the photos of the victim and recognizes he is Sotiris Kostopoulos who is always in the tabloids as part of a ménage a trois with the granddaughter of the Linardos clan while his family and hers are at war. Andreas visits Sotiris' adopted parents Zanni and Ginny, who say nothing to the news or the questions asked by the CI. An affluent publisher Zanni says the only suspects he can think of are Sarantis Linardos and his family as each covets the highly regarded The Athenian newspaper. Meanwhile clues lead the detective to hooker Anna Panitz who admits to taking cash from strangers to entice the victim to go with her to an isolated locale. With pressure mounting from high officials to close the case, Andreas keeps the pressure on the feuding families and their associates. The latest Kaldis investigation (see Murder in Mykonos) is an enjoyable Greek police procedural Noir as the CI curses out incompetent cops and roughs up crooks while taking fans on a tour of Athens not seen by the Olympics crowd. The story line is fast-paced from the opening moment when Kaldis hammers a cop for tainting a crime scene and never slows down as he stares down everyone except Maggie. Although somewhat linear with not twists, fans will enjoy this tough cop's homicide investigation. Harriet Klausner
I loved Murder in Mykonos, Mr. Siger's first mystery. I had traveled to Mykonos in the early 90's and really enjoyed the setting. The book also had a lot of depth and mystery. I was excited to see Mr. Siger had another book out. I bought it shortly after it came out and have been waiting to savor it. It was good. I enjoyed it. But it had less of an impact on me. I think there a few reasons why. First of all, it seemed a bit too socially-conscious for me right from the start. Also, I even got confused a little bit with which character was which and how they were connected to each other. I found keeping a chart necessary at one point (this may also be due to the fact I sometimes only have time to read once a week on my day off). Also, in my opinion, it wasn't really a true mystery that kept me guessing until the end. It was more of a thriller. I also felt the detective's relationship with a woman seemed contrived - kind of like a love interest thrown in to try and give the book balance. There were many things I like about the book though. I like the setting in Greece. It's fun to hear in great detail about modern Athens. The author is very good at bringing the essence of a place to life. I also like the author's general style of writing. There's lots of good side commentary about life and human nature in general. The book does keep one's interest and I was certainly never bored with it. I also love the cover. I realized it's significance about halfway through the book which was fun. I'm almost always this way about second books by authors though. I think most people's debut work is such a passionate rush of prose it's hard to replicate it.