2016 Barry Awards nominee for Best Novel
"Siger brings Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis some very big challenges in his seventh mystery set in troubled contemporary Greece...The final plot twist proves well worth the wait, but it won't take readers long to get there as they will be turning pages at a ferocious clip." Booklist STARRED review
Delphi once stood at the center of the world, a mountainous, verdant home to the gods, where kings and warriors journeyed to hear its Oracle speak. The Oracle embodied the decree of the godsor at least the word of Apollo. To disobey risked...everything.
Young Athenian Kharon chooses modern Delphi to rebuild his life among its rolling hills and endless olive groves. But his dark past is too celebrated, and his assassin's skills so in demand, that his fate does not rest entirely in his own hands. Greece is being flooded with bomba, counterfeits of the most celebrated alcoholic beverages and wine brands. The legitimate annual trillion-dollar world market is in peril. So, too, are consumerssomeone is not just counterfeiting booze, but adulterating it, often with poisonous substances. Who is masterminding this immensely lucrative conspiracy?
Kharon learns who when the ruthless criminal gives him no choice but to serve her. Her decrees are as absolute as the Oracle's, and as fearsomely punished. Kharon agrees, but dictates his own payoff. And his own methods, which allow his targets some choice in the outcomes.
When Kharon unexpectedly shoots a member of one of Greece's richest, most feared families, he draws Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis into the eye of a political and media firestorm threatening to bring down Greece's government. Think Breaking Bad, Greek-style.
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About the Author
Jeffrey Siger was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, practiced law at a major Wall Street law firm, and later established his own New York City law firm where he continued as one of its name partners until giving it all up to write full-time among the people, life, and politics of his beloved Mykonos. The Mykonos Mob is the tenth novel in his internationally best-selling and award nominated Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, following up on An Aegean April, Santorini Caesars, Devil in Delphi, Sons of Sparta, Mykonos After Midnight, Target: Tinos, Prey on Patmos, Assassins of Athens, and Murder in Mykonos.
The New York Times described Jeffrey Siger's novels as "thoughtful police procedurals set in picturesque but not untroubled Greek locales," and named him as Greece's thriller writer of record. 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." He now lives in Greece.
Read an Excerpt
Devil of Delphi
A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery
By Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen PressCopyright © 2015 Jeffrey Siger
All rights reserved.
He was born precisely one year after his mother's death. At least that's what the birth certificate read. His father wasn't around to notice the mistake, having vanished immediately after his fateful one-night stand. Nor did the orphanage pick up on the error; they simply treated him as the child of an unidentified itinerant mother, born on the day she died giving birth in one of Athens' worst public clinics.
He learned of the mistake a dozen years ago, slightly shy of what he believed to be his fourteenth birthday. The surprise came in the form of a copy of his birth certificate shown to him just before his lawyer presented it to a court along with a citation to provisions of the Greek Criminal Code absolving a minor under thirteen from any criminal responsibility for his acts. He stood expressionless as a visibly angry judge ranted on and on before ordering him to spend his next five years in programs alongside other minors deemed in need of reformative measures.
But he never spent a moment in confinement for the murders.
* * *
"I don't usually pick up hitchhikers, but I figured anyone out here in the middle of nowhere carrying a puppy in his arms must be local. Sorry, you probably don't understand a word I'm saying."
"I live in the next village."
"You understand English?" said the driver. "Wonderful. I'm new to this part of the world. Just passing through."
The passenger nodded.
"I'm headed back to Athens. Been down to Galaxidi on the Gulf of Corinth for a couple of days. Beautiful harbor, beautiful town, beautiful sea. I think I'll do a quick stop in Delphi. Mythology stuff isn't my thing, but at least I'll be able to tell my friends I saw the place. Ever been there? Of course you have. You live right next to it."
Again the passenger nodded.
"Gorgeous place, Greece, especially now in June. Maybe you can answer a question for me. Everywhere I go I see wide-open countryside. Makes me wonder why with so much beautiful, available space, almost half the country chooses to live jammed together in Athens?"
The passenger stroked the puppy. "I wouldn't know. I haven't been to Athens. Matter of fact, I haven't been much farther away from my home than the place where you picked me up."
"Really? A nice looking, well-built young man like you stuck here in the middle of nothing but olive groves all your life? Someone ought to take you to Athens and show you a good time. After all, it's only a couple of hours away." The driver shot a quick glance at the passenger.
The passenger nodded and smiled.
The man touched his right hand to the passenger's left thigh. "I'm from Georgia."
The passenger took no notice of the touch. "I wouldn't have taken you for a former Soviet."
The driver paused for a moment, laughed. "No, not that Georgia, the one in the United States." He rested his hand on his passenger's leg.
"Oh yes, the place of the United States Olympics."
"Atlanta, 1996. But you couldn't be old enough to remember that."
He tugged at the puppy's ears. "A bomb went off. People died, many injured. The hero who saved a lot of lives was accused of being a terrorist."
The driver stared at his passenger. "His name was Richard Jewell. The government apologized and he was cleared."
"Hard to get back your reputation once the media tells the whole world you're guilty."
"The world's not perfect."
"He had to sue to get apologies from the press and died trying."
"As we say down Georgia way, 'Shit happens.'" The passenger nodded.
The driver gave his passenger's thigh a squeeze. "You're a pretty interesting fella. How do you know all this stuff living all the way out here?"
The passenger shrugged and looked out the side window. "Television keeps us middle-of-nowhere folk in touch with the world."
The driver laughed. "Touché." He squeezed harder.
Without turning from the window the passenger asked, "What's your name?"
"Michael is a nice name. In Greek it would be Mihalis."
"My mother was Greek."
"It's good you know who your mother was." He turned and looked at the driver. "You look about my age."
The driver pulled in his belly. "Maybe a few years older. And your name?"
"Did you say 'Karen?' That doesn't sound like a Greek man's name."
He smiled. "It is. Believe me, it is."
Kharon fixed his eyes on Michael's.
Michael bobbed his head in glances between Kharon and the road. "What are you staring at?"
"Would you like to have sex with me?" Kharon smiled.
"Do I have to ask twice, Michael?"
"Where do I pull off?"
"The next left. It's not far. Just keep driving into the olives until I tell you to stop."
"I really do like your country."
Kharon smiled and stroked the puppy. "I'm sure."
* * *
They drove between two rows of hundred-year-old olive trees toward the base of a gray limestone mountain splotched in myrtle and gorse a half mile or so off the highway. Kharon told him to stop by a pair of cypress trees and led him to a grassy spot enclosed on three sides by soaring cliffs. A private place. He pointed for Michael to lie down. Michael hesitated. Kharon slowly undressed, then lay naked on his back, glancing up at a light blue sky and stray cotton clouds before gesturing for Michael to come to him. Michael grinned as he dropped down.
By the time Kharon finished, Michael lay smiling from ear to ear — directly across his throat. Kharon had slowly stripped the American naked before killing him. No reason to bloody the clothes. He might be able to use them. At least give them away to someone who could. Waste not, want not.
He hadn't planned on killing him. Things just evolved that way. It was hard enough getting strangers to pick up hitchhikers in the backcountry, even with the borrowed puppy routine. Word of something like this getting around would make it even tougher. He decided to bury the man and take his car. He'd return the puppy and drive the car to Athens, so the city would be blamed for the disappearance of — he pulled a driver's license out of the dead man's wallet — Michael C. Dillman. The money in the wallet would pay for a rental car to get him back to Delphi. He wouldn't stay long in Athens. Too many bad memories there.
He'd lied about not knowing Athens. He'd lied about other things too. But, for sure, so had the dead guy. Too bad Dillman wasn't up on his Greek mythology. Had the Georgian known of the mythical ferryman of Hades who transported souls from the land of the living to the land of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron, he might not have been so quick to go off with a stranger bearing the ferryman's name.
Kharon had always tried giving a choice to the people he killed. It just seemed the right thing to do. He'd even given a choice to the two older boys in his orphanage who liked raping the young ones. He told them to stop. They hadn't.
The ministry in charge of the orphanage thought widespread rape within a government institution would trigger a bigger scandal than an isolated murder incident, so it portrayed the killings as the unprovoked mutilation murder of two fine, upstanding young men. He would still be in prison if it weren't for his lawyer's last-minute gambit.
The Justice Ministry, as angry as the judge at the unexpected turn, encouraged the press to vilify the boy mercilessly. Yes, he knew firsthand what the media could do to a reputation. He'd become a household word for "injustice," and in the process, a celebrity among his aspiring criminal peers.
Once released from supervision and on his own, he couldn't find work. Everyone knew his name. Two years in the military taught him other skills, but when he returned to civilian life he again faced the same closed minds each time he sought work in his own name. That's when he went to work for his former associates, doing jobs consistent with his reputation.
Now he lived without a name. Except when they called him. And when they did, they called him Kharon.CHAPTER 2
"Yianni, what are you doing?"
Detective Yianni Kouros kept lining up the contents of two cases of liquor bottles across the top of his boss' desk. "Introducing you to my world."
Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, head of the Greek Police's Special Crimes Division, leaned back in his chair and watched as his chief assistant turned his office in Greece's central police headquarters building, better known as GADA, into a bar. They'd worked together long enough for him to know there had to be a method to Kouros' madness.
"So, how do you like it?" Kouros stepped back to admire his handiwork.
"The vodka on the rocks, the scotch neat, and the tequila with a bit of lemon."
Kouros jerked his head straight up in the Greek gesture for no. "I don't think you'd like this crap."
"What do you mean? They're all top brands."
"Yes. And all counterfeit."
Andreas leaned in to take a closer look at the bottles. "Bomba?" He'd used the street name for the worst kind of counterfeit liquor, the adulterated stuff named for the bomb you thought went off in your brain after drinking it.
Kouros nodded. "And the packaging is perfect."
"That's not good news."
"Yep, the counterfeit booze trade has taken off. And it's not just liquor. Wine, too."
"What about beer?"
"Not there yet. Not enough profit. But there's a lot to be made in spirits and wine. They're about the only expensive consumables selling big-time in Greece. That and cigarettes. The bump up in tourism has booze sales through the roof."
"And brought in opportunists, clearly."
Kouros nodded. "It's one thing dealing with the fashion knockoffs from China sold at every beach and town square in Greece, but this stuff is dangerous. The labeling makes it all look legit, but some of what's in it can really hurt you."
"Where did you find it?"
"Petro and I went to a club in Gazi last night for a drink and the bartender served us some of this garbage. I choked on my favorite tequila, and Petro spit his vodka all over the guy."
"That must have gotten his attention." Andreas smiled. "A six-foot, six-inch gorilla with a badge spitting booze at him."
"He didn't know we were cops until later."
"How much later?"
"Time sort of stood still, but I'd say about five minutes or so after the bartender and two bouncers came at us with lead pipes."
"Don't tell me ...?"
Kouros nodded. "Don't worry, they'll be out of the hospital by tomorrow."
"Sounds like you had fun."
"The real fun came after we'd 'calmed down' the bartender and his buddies," Kouros used finger quotes for emphasis. "A half-dozen cops came storming in, guns drawn. Apparently their commander had an interest in the place."
Andreas smiled. "The best protection money can buy."
"That's what the owner thought when he told us we were about to learn what happened to 'assholes' like us who 'messed with the Greek police.'"
Andreas laughed. "And?"
"The sergeant asked for our identity cards. So we showed him our police IDs. Never saw guns go back into holsters so quickly."
"What did the owner do?"
"Not the right thing. He offered to 'pay' us for our 'trouble.' I thought the sergeant was going to have a heart attack. We let him explain to the owner that we were part of the police unit charged with investigating official corruption and he'd just committed a very big no-no."
"Sounds like a fun time was had by all."
"We had the sergeant and his cops confiscate every bottle in the place and escort the owner and the bottles back to GADA."
"Did the owner have anything else to say?"
"Only that he was as surprised as we were about the bomba. He said he'd been defrauded by his supplier, but he couldn't remember the guy's name."
"Guess he decided a fine for selling counterfeit booze was a lot less permanent than what would happen to him if he named his suppliers."
Kouros nodded. "Mobsters in this racket don't take kindly to snitches. Best way to find who's making this stuff is get a line on someone selling it and follow him back up the chain to the top."
"Good luck at that. Besides, we already know where it's going to end up. With some Balkan mob connection."
Kouros looked thoughtful. "Maybe, but something about this stuff seems different. I know what bomba looks like and this stuff isn't like any of that. It's a much higher-level operation than what we're used to seeing. Someone's put some real money into making counterfeit look legit. But it's not perfect. Within identical counterfeit bottles bearing identical counterfeit labels, the stuff inside isn't always the same. Some of it's not bad and some, like what Petro got a taste of at the bar, could blind you."
"So we've got counterfeiters with great packaging but poor product-quality control."
"Whatever the explanation, I sense it could be big."
"I assume the kid agrees with you about all this?" Andreas spread his arms as if embracing the bottles lined up on his desk.
Kouros nodded. "Some kid. Petro could lift both of us over his head. One in each hand."
"Not me," said Andreas patting his belly. "I've gained a few kilos."
Kouros reached for a bottle of scotch and slid it toward Andreas. "Here, try this new miracle weight-loss drug. One swig will have you puking your guts out for a week."
Andreas spun the whiskey bottle around and looked at the label. "Thanks, but for that sort of experience, I prefer our cafeteria." He pushed the bottle back at Kouros.
"Which reminds me ..." Andreas stood from his desk. "Time for lunch."
* * *
GADA sat near the heart of central Athens, across from the stadium of one of the country's most popular soccer teams and close by Greece's Supreme Court. The neighborhood offered many places to eat, but convenience made GADA's cafeteria the most popular venue for those working in the building. Like every office eatery, it had its share of legendary items to avoid. On some days that meant the entire menu.
From the crowd inside, this did not look to be one of those days.
Andreas chose his food as wisely as he could, knowing he'd be cross-examined by Lila when he got home. His wife's last words that morning were, "Forget the potatoes." He'd only gained five pounds since their son was born and that was four years ago. Okay, ten pounds.
He went with the salad and a piece of broiled fish. At least it looked like fish.
"Chief, over here," shouted a sturdy, red-haired woman waving from a table shared with Petro.
Kouros followed Andreas to Maggie Sikestis' table.
"What's the matter? You don't see enough of your boss upstairs?" said Kouros.
"Watch your tongue, young man, or I'll boot you off my favorites list."
No one wanted that fate. Maggie was GADA's mother superior, keeper of its secrets, and master of its support staff intrigues. She also was Andreas' secretary and had been since his return to head up Special Crimes after a brief stint as police chief for the Aegean Cycladic island of Mykonos. On Mykonos he'd first met Kouros, who was then a rookie cop.
"Ease up on him, Maggie," said Andreas sliding onto a chair next to her. "He's been hitting the booze this morning."
"So I noticed. He had Petro lugging cartons of liquor into his office."
Andreas looked at Kouros. "You mean there's more of what you dumped on my desk in your office?"
Kouros picked up a french fry with his fingers, waved it in front of Andreas, and popped it into his mouth. "Yep, eight more cases."
"Stop teasing him with french fries," Maggie snapped, "or I'll tell Lila."
Kouros jerked back in mock fear.
Andreas picked up his fork and took a tentative taste of the fish. "Not bad." He forked up another bite. "Why'd you put them all in your office?"
"Because if I left them in the property room some asshole down there would likely drink it. Or sell it."
"Might do the force a service," smiled Petro across a tray laden with just about one of everything on the menu.
"Glad to hear you share my high regard for many of our brethren," said Kouros.
"Why shouldn't I? If the chief hadn't brought me into the unit, those assholes would still have me standing in front of GADA directing tourists to the nearest toilet."
Excerpted from Devil of Delphi by Jeffrey Siger. Copyright © 2015 Jeffrey Siger. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press.
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