In the Book of Revelation, written by St. John on the Greek island of Patmos, it was said a pale horse would appear whose rider was death, others would cry out for vengeance, and the stars of heaven would fall to the earth. Death does indeed come to Patmos when a German tourist is found murdered in the garden of one of the island's fabled estates. Yiannis Patronas, Chief Officer of the Chios police, is called in to investigate. He summons his top detective, Giorgos Tembelos, and his friend and amateur sleuth, Papa Michalis, to assist him. What the policemen discover will disturb them long after the conclusion of the case. Only six people were at the house at the time of the murder--the gardener and housekeeper, the victim's son and his wife and their two children, a boy of seven and a teenage girl of sixteen. All appear to be innocent. But access to the isolated estate is severely restricted. Surrounded by high walls, it has only one entrance: a metal gate that was bolted at the time of the crime. Patronas can only conclude that one of the six is a killer. He continues to probe, uncovering the family's many secrets. Some are very old, others more recent. All are horrifying. But which of these secrets led to murder? Book 2 of the Greek Islands Mystery series, which began with The Devil Takes Half.
About the Author
Leta Serafim is the author of the Greek Islands Mystery series, published by the Coffeetown Press, as well as the historical novel, To Look on Death No More. She has visited over twenty-five islands in Greece and continues to divide her time between Boston and Greece. You can find her online at letaserafim.com.
Read an Excerpt
When the Devil's Idle
A Greek Islands Mystery
By Leta Serafim
Coffeetown PressCopyright © 2015 Leta Serafim
All rights reserved.
An old enemy cannot become a friend.
— Greek Proverb
Night was fast approaching and the garden was half-hidden in shadows. The gardener unlocked the gate and quickly set about his evening's work, watering the roses first before moving on to the cypress trees at the periphery of the estate. The air was very still; the only sound, a flock of birds chattering by the fountain. The estate, cloistered on a hilltop and located in the village of Chora on the Greek island of Patmos, was well off the tourist trail. People rarely ventured there uninvited.
The gardener lingered by the fountain, enjoying the sound of the cascading water and the coolness it brought to the hot, late-summer air. He dipped his hand in the water and wiped his face.
Distracted, he didn't notice the wounded man at first, lying in a congealing pool of blood on the far side of the fountain. It was the birds that drew him. Crows, from the sound of them, far too many for this time of night.
His eyes open, the man lay sprawled on the ground, barely breathing. His hair was matted with blood and his forehead was carved with a swastika.
The gardener fell to his knees and screamed and screamed. He was far from the house, so no one heard his cries. Growing more and more desperate, he ran to the door and began pounding on it, crying for help. Eventually a woman answered. Pushing his way into the house, he demanded her cellphone and called the police. The station was located in the port of Skala, four kilometers away, the village of Chora being far too small to warrant its own station.
There was much shouting back and forth, given the poor connection, before the gardener finally yelled, "Dolofonia!" Murder.
At first the police dispatcher was skeptical and doubted the man's story, but the hysteria in the Albanian's voice finally convinced him to send someone, if only to lock him up in a padded cell.
A policeman named Evangelos Demos duly arrived on the scene.
* * *
It was, as he later told his former supervisor, Yiannis Patronas, exactly as the gardener described.
"Yes. One of the worst crime scenes I've ever seen." This was hardly significant. Evangelos Demos was no expert, having seen only one other crime scene in his life, a bloody mess on a beach. On that occasion he had fainted dead away, going down like a sequoia tree and vomiting as he went, contaminating every scrap of evidence. He was notorious among law enforcement officials in Greece, a legend almost.
"There was an old woman who pulled me aside as I was leaving the house. 'Prosehe,' she said." Be careful.
Patronas had been at a taverna on the Greek island of Chios when the call came in, eating dinner with an elderly priest named Papa Michalis. The two were old friends and it was an idyllic evening. Far to the east, the moon was rising and he could see the dusky hills of Turkey across the narrow channel that divided the two countries, along with headlights of cars in the streets of Chesme.
Between them, the two had drunk nearly a liter of ouzo and were discussing the nature of evil, whether it was generated by humans or an independent entity. The priest, being a religious man, favored the latter view, quoting the Bible to bolster his case. "'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven,' it says in the New Testament. 'For God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains.'"
Patronas snorted. "So our troubles are caused by fallen angels?" As the Chief Officer of the Chios police, he'd seen plenty of the fallen and arrested more than a few of them, but he'd never encountered an angel. Not a single one in all his years on the force or in his tumultuous married life. Just the opposite in fact.
But the priest was not to be put off. "Fallen angels, the devil, call it what you will. There's too much evil in the world to be the work of man alone."
Patronas was later to recall that conversation. Papa Michalis had spoken the truth that night. Evil was indeed an entity and certain human beings embodied it, wore it like skin. He just hadn't realized it at the time.
When his phone rang, he hesitated, not wanting the evening to end.
"Chief Officer Patronas?" a man asked.
Patronas cursed, recognizing the tremulous whine of his former associate, Evangelos Demos. Fat and incompetent, he'd been forced out of the Chios Police Directorate after panicking during a stakeout and shooting up a herd of goats. It had been one of the worst nights of Patronas' career, Evangelos firing away with his service revolver and the goats falling, writhing, and shitting themselves as they bled to death. "Get rid of him," Patronas had told his superior at the time. "No living creature is safe while Evangelos Demos is on the job. He does harm just by breathing."
As usually happened, his superior in Athens, a self-serving bureaucrat named Haralambos Stathis, had ignored his warning and reassigned Evangelos Demos to Patmos. His duties there were few: overseeing the cruise ships that docked there and the hundreds of foreign tourists on holiday who inevitably drank too much and got into trouble.
"It's as far away as we can send him and still be on dry land," Stathis had told Patronas at the time. "Any farther east and he'll be policing fishes."
Pity the fishes.
"Why don't you just fire him?"
"His uncle is a representative from Sparta." This being Greece, it was a sufficient reason.
Ever the parade horse, his old colleague Evangelos Demos had become insufferable since being posted to Patmos, bragging about the celebrities he knew — Aga Khan and the like — who summered there. Although he'd been totally disgraced and his uncle had been forced to call in favors to save his career, Evangelos always spoke as if he expected to be listened to, prefacing every remark with 'na sou po' — let me tell you — and pontificating as if he were king. This time was no exception.
Irritated, Patronas reached for his cigarettes. Just thinking about Evangelos made his blood boil. He wanted to hang up, but didn't dare. He was already considered a troublemaker, an outlaw, a rogue. No reason to make matters worse.
"There's a dead German here," Evangelos' voice dropped dramatically, "murdered."
Patronas puffed furiously on his cigarette. He needed to get a new phone, one with a screen that showed who was calling.
Homicide was rare in Greece, the murder of a foreigner, rarer still. After solving a case on Chios, he had become a celebrity of sorts among policemen and was often consulted by colleagues like Evangelos on difficult cases. Patronas didn't welcome the attention and wished they'd leave him alone. It had hardly been an achievement, that case on Chios, botched as it was from start to finish. Yes, he'd caught the killer, but it had been more by accident than design and only after the perpetrator had murdered three people and sliced him to ribbons. A rank amateur, he recognized his limitations. He only wished others did.
"I don't know where to start," Evangelos went on in an uncharacteristic burst of modesty.
"You said the victim was German?"
"That's right. Someone carved a swastika on his forehead."
"One of those skinheads? A tourist?"
Evangelos knew what Patronas was asking. Sometimes foreigners got into things, strange things better left alone. "No, the victim was an old man."
"Eight-nine, ninety. Old, old."
Patronas gave a low whistle. "Was it a robbery?"
"I don't think so. He was staying in Chora with his family, guests of an industrialist in Munich. A very powerful man. There's a bunch of them here now. Unlike us, they've got money to burn and bought up a bunch of old villas. Spend July and August there. ..."
The priest, who'd been listening, chuckled softly. "Summer, autumn, war." It was an old saying, dating from the time of the Spartans, on the inevitability of war, the enduring presence of one's enemies.
"Germans haven't made it to Chios," said Patronas.
"You're lucky," Evangelos said. "They're all over Patmos now. Couldn't get here with Hitler, so they bought their way in this time. Their weapon of choice, the Euro." His voice was bitter.
Patronas had heard similar complaints — Germans making themselves at home in places where they didn't belong. Ieropetra in Crete, for example, a village which suffered one of the bloodiest massacres of the war. The newcomers had no compunction about it, apparently, no sense that it was hallowed ground and they shouldn't trespass. Idly, he wondered what the Israelis would do if Germans turned up en masse in Tel Aviv, beach towels in hand, eager to buy property. Be interesting to see.
Hospitality was a Greek virtue and had been since ancient times. Guests were to be honored, given the best food, the last drop of wine. But what if they never left, those guests? Stayed on and bought houses and lived there beside you? What was the difference between a guest and the advance guard of an invading army? Patronas didn't know the answer. Wasn't sure there was one.
"You have to help me," Evangelos said. "I can't do this alone." There was something in his voice as he said this. Fear maybe.
"What about my job?" Patronas asked.
"I cleared it with Athens."
"I don't know if you know this, Evangelos, but I got a second job since you left Chios, overseeing the security on an archeological dig."
In addition to his police work, Patronas and a friend of his from the force, Giorgos Tembelos, worked part-time as guards on an excavation run by Harvard University. The job was easy and the pay was good. He'd be a fool to abandon it. Times were tough now in Greece. In spite of his twenty-two years on the force, he could be laid off at any time.
"Ask the Americans for a leave of absence," Evangelos said. "They'll give it to you."
A dead German, a man of uncertain vintage with varicose veins and a cane — not a case that stirred Patronas or cried out to him for justice.
"I don't know," he said. "Patmos is pretty far away."
"I'm afraid there might be more," Evangelos blurted out. Again, that note in his voice. "There are a lot of Germans here. I'm afraid this is only the beginning."
Patronas sat there, thinking. His country was hanging by a thread. Unsolved, a case like this could generate panic, keep tourists away. "All right," he said wearily. "I'll come."
Digging into his briefcase, he got out a notebook and pen. "Give me the details. Who found him?"
"The gardener. He said the old man was lying outside in a bathrobe and slippers."
"So he wasn't meeting someone?"
"No. He kept to himself. Liked to sit outside in the sun and listen to German music. Sometimes slept there in the afternoon."
Evangelos hesitated. "I thought it might be political," he said in a low voice.
Patronas smiled to himself. A Greek perspective, that one. Sooner or later, everything led back to politics.
"Our politics or theirs?" he asked.
"Theirs. Judging by the house, these people have a lot of money. Maybe it was someone from Germany, one of those leftists from the Baader-Meinhof gang or the Red Brigades."
"First, that was a long time ago and second, the Red Brigades weren't even German. They were Italian."
The priest continued to play, humming a few bars of the Horst Wessel song, the Nazi anthem, and breaking into song now and then, bellowing, "Millions are looking upon the swastika full of hope." A moment later, he shifted and began yodeling the words of Deutschland Erwache — another anthem from the war. He was very drunk.
To the swastika, devoted are we!
Hail our leader, hail Hitler to thee!
"What did the coroner say?" Patronas asked, motioning the priest to be quiet.
"We don't have a coroner on Patmos," Evangelos said. "A local doctor saw him."
"What did the doctor say?"
"That he was dead."
Patronas closed his eyes. He'd forgotten what Evangelos was like. A mosquito could outthink him.
"How long will it take you to get here?" Evangelos asked.
"I don't know. I'll have to fly to Athens first, then to Samos and from there catch a boat to Patmos. Twelve hours at least."
"Stathis doesn't want you to fly. By boat, he said, you and your men. Third class."
"More than twenty-four hours then. Midnight tomorrow at the earliest."
"I'll keep everything in place until you come."
With a sigh, Patronas closed his phone. A corpse in August, a day and a half gone. It wouldn't be pretty. Not to mention that the case was sure to have political repercussions, given the current antipathy between Greece and Germany, the sense among his fellow citizens that the Germans were bleeding them dry and finally achieving what they'd been denied during the war — the utter destruction of their country. He most fervently hoped the victim hadn't been attacked for that reason — that some crazed public employee, upset about the cuts to his salary, hadn't decided to avenge himself on an old man in pajamas.
The priest had heard every word. "I fear Satan is afoot in Greece once more," he mumbled, pouring out the last of the ouzo and drinking it down. "This killing is his handiwork, his calling card." He rambled on a bit. Something about how the devil had gotten loose in Greece once before, and that time he had been speaking German. Now it was the Germans themselves who were being killed.
"Some people would call that karma," Patronas said.
"Not me. I call it evil." Papa Michalis slammed his glass down. "Pure evil." He leaned across the table and clutched Patronas' arm. "Let me come with you. I studied on Patmos. I know people there."
"The people you know are priests, Father. It is unlikely one of them did this."
"The killer could be a priest. Who knows what a man of the cloth is capable of? Just look at America."
Packing was no problem. What Patronas needed, he stowed in a plastic shopping bag: underwear, a toothbrush, a comb he liked because it folded up. After he left his wife, he'd taken to going to the Turkish baths when he needed a good cleaning, carrying his dirty clothes with him and laying them out on the stone bench and steaming them alongside his naked body. Ironing, however, remained a problem. He didn't dare discuss it with his ex-wife, Dimitra, since their leave-taking had been acrimonious. Scissors in hand, she'd been sewing when he'd told her he was moving out. Never one to hesitate, she had reached over and jabbed him in the calf, had threatened to castrate him if he didn't get out of her sight. In retrospect, he should have waited until she'd put the scissors down before telling her he'd had enough and was on his way. At least he'd escaped with his manhood intact and his intestines — no small thing, that. She was a praying mantis, his wife, an evil insect. If he'd let her, she would have drained him of his bodily fluids, bared her teeth, and chewed his legs off.
As it was, she'd gouged a gash in his calf that required eighteen stitches to close. He'd been on crutches for a month.
'Better to live with the devil than a mean woman,' the Greeks said, and it was true.
They'd separated after his last case, reconciled for a time, although Patronas' heart wasn't in it, and finally called it quits the previous winter. Their divorce had just come through and now he was free. The very thought of no more Dimitra made him feel lightheaded, and he danced around the room as he got ready, singing that paean to freedom, the national anthem of Greece, as he reached for his socks.
Hail, oh hail, freedom.
We know thee of old
Oh, divinely restored
By the lights of thine eyes
And the swiftness of thy sword
He waved a sock around his head and slapped the dresser with it. He'd never fought the Turks. No, his war had been only with her, but by God he'd won it.
Before leaving for the house, Patronas called his second-in-command, Giorgos Tembelos, told him to pack up Papa Michalis, pour some coffee in him, and meet him at the harbor with a suitcase. "The three of us are going to Patmos. We'll be there for a while, so come prepared."
It was probably a mistake bringing Papa Michalis along, but he couldn't leave him in Chios, not drunk as he was and singing about Horst Wessel, a dead SS man. The bishop had been seeking to defrock the old man for ages. This would give him the ammunition he needed. He'd allege the priest was a Nazi and that would be that, when in fact Papa Michalis was just the opposite — a genuine war hero. He'd hidden people from the Gestapo and spirited them to safety — courageous deeds he rarely spoke of. He was a good man, a little flawed maybe — he couldn't hold his liquor, for one — but insightful and occasionally brillant. Patronas trusted him with his life. It was an odd pairing, he knew, a priest and a cop, an atheist and a man of God, but somehow their partnership worked.
Excerpted from When the Devil's Idle by Leta Serafim. Copyright © 2015 Leta Serafim. Excerpted by permission of Coffeetown Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Serafim does a great job with knitting together the past and present, and does not allow you to see who did what until the very end. Magnificent writing! More! — CJ Loiacono
Posted first to Blog Critics as Book Review: 'When The Devil's Idle, a Greek Island Mystery,' by Leta Serafim. In When The Devil’s Idle by Leta Serafim, we follow the scene of a murder that is both troubling and odd. An elderly man is found on an isolated estate brutally murdered. The place this murder occurs is highly restricted to outsiders, and at the time of the murder the gate is bolted. The family living there consists of a husband and wife and their two younger children. The murder victim is the grandfather of those children on the husband’s side. In residence at the time of his death the only other people there at the time are the gardener and the housekeeper. Yiannis Patronas, of the Chios police, summons his top detective Giorgos Tembelos, to assist. In the Greek city of Patmos, when a German tourist is murdered it can only bring problems to the island. Giorgos brings his friend and amateur sleuth, a priest, Papa Michalis to help. As they dig deep into the family history and the background of the victim, they find a past that is brutal. A Nazi and a killer, the old man has escaped his past to move to the island and live out his life with his family. But is his past behind him. Can it shed light on the brutality of his murder? As Giorgos and his friend Michalis travel to find answers, they uncover the story of his life and even darker rumors of a crime more brutal. With so many red herrings and possible murderers, how can the Police decipher the real reason for his death? Until they can separate the darkness the surrounds the victim and the sickness and brutality of his past, they can only assume to understand what has happened. There is a deeper and darker grief at work and they must decipher the past and delve into the present to discover if that past is responsible, or if a new wave of secrets is behind brutal murder. The characters are mysterious, and stay to themselves. While they avow no knowledge of what has transpired, it is obvious they are in hiding for some reason. With no friends, they are an island to themselves. While all appear very innocent, Serafim takes us into their own secrets to flush out the possible motive. The detectives are an admirable mix of determination and steadfastness. The addition of the priest brings a bit of humor to the situation as well as distraction, for he takes away a bit of the fear of the police. His help is invaluable to this story. If you enjoy mystery and murder this is a rare find. The descriptions of Greece are wonderful and help to take you there as you journey into the horror and history of the Nazi regime. This would be a great book for a reading club with a great deal of background to decipher.
When the Devil’s Idle by Leta Serafim is more than a detective story. Before reading this novel, I knew nothing about Greece. Leta Serafim’s descriptions of the country, her explanations of historical events intermingled with Greek mythology, made me fall in love with Greece. The setting is on the island of Patmos. You will learn that the evangelist, St. John wrote the Book of Revelation here. The island is very popular with Greek tourists. It’s like the snow birds in the US going south for the winter. German tourists fly to Greece. It must be a “deal” financially. It is here that a crime takes place. A German tourist is murdered with a swastika carved on his forehead. The detectives are a team. The leader is Yiannis Patronas. His cohorts are a fellow policeman and a priest: Giorgos Tembelos and Papa Michalis. There’s another. For comic relief add Evangelos Demos. Evangelos is a screw-up. He is described as “Fat and incompetent, he’d been forced out of the Chios Police Directorate after panicking during a stakeout and shooting up a herd of goats.” And he is the one who was called in first to investigate the murder. Evangelos knew enough to call in a more experienced detective. And that was Patronas. With Patronas, came the other detective and the priest. The other detective, Tembelos , helps investigating. The priest adds an objective, fair, and non-judgmental opinion on history and theology. Yes, theology! This is Greece, full of Greek mythology and the history of early Christianity. Let me be honest. I don’t usually like novels I can’t identify with. So I expected to be bored by story. I thought it would be a lot of background of Greek history, mythology and religion. Greece never interested me. I never would want to go there. So I was taken by surprised by the author, Leta Serafim’s seduction of my senses. She so deftly interwove the background into the story that I craved to learn more. The island of Patmos is famous because one of the apostles lived and died there. St. John was exiled to the island. The island had currently become a popular tourist spot, especially frequented by Germans. This fact added a special twist of irony. The Germans during World War II tried to conquer Greece. “Couldn’t get here with Hitler, so they bought their way in this time.” P. 4. At this time, the Greek economy was hitting bottom, so the Greeks had to put up with these “one time enemies.” The first suspect, Maria Georgiou seemed to be the most likely. She was a amicable character, so I didn’t want her to be the murderer. But the deeper the investigation got, the more likely she looked. She had every reason to hate and seek revenge on the victim. Maria was even arrested for the crime. No one else could have done it. I won’t spoil the plot for you. Tracking down the history of the victim and Maria will hook you into wanting to know more. You will enjoy every well-crafted word.
A murder in the quiet town of Patmos, Greece. Who would want to murder a 90-year-old German? A murder in an enclosed compound with no one but family and the family's gardener and housekeeper around. How did the murderer get into the secure compound? One of them had to be the killer since it was difficult to get into the compound, but who and why? WHEN THE DEVIL'S IDLE is set in Greece with interesting characters and a wonderful glimpse at Greece's culture. The main character Patronas was quite likable and a bit comical despite the seriousness of the situation he and his fellow policemen were investigating. He was a great character to keep the book interesting and moving along. Along with the beauty of Greece, WHEN THE DEVIL'S IDLE brought up the horrors of WWII and what happened to the children of Aghios Stefanos. Could this be the reason someone wanted Gunther Bechtel dead after all this time? The ending was a bit odd, but the crime was solved. :) WHEN THE DEVIL'S IDLE dragged a bit and was difficult to follow at first with all the Greek names, but I enjoyed the book and became attached to the characters as I continued reading. 4/5 This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.
"An old enemy cannot become a friend."- Greek proverb So begins a mystery novel where a ninety-year-old man is found murdered, a swastika carved into his forehead. Not many people are killed in such an idyllic setting—in a garden on a Greek isle in the Aegean Sea. His death raises the question: Why would someone brutally kill a man who only had a few years left to live? His identity turns out to be a key component. Living under an alias in Germany, he's been in Greece before. Namely, during World War II. "Evil was indeed an entity and certain human beings embodied it, wore it like skin." It's only when the police begin to look at the villa's housekeeper that a possible motive begins to emerge. As a child, the woman's entire village was massacred by the Nazis, and she's one of the last remaining survivors. When the police ask her if she had ever encountered the victim before, her response changes the scope of the entire investigation. "Maybe that's how they grieve in Germany. They cry themselves out and return to their computers." The cultural divide between the victim's family and the local community is a chasm that isn't easily breached. The man's son is a UN humanitarian worker in Africa. His daughter-in-law is a Heidi Klum knockout, who's devoted to her children. They swallow their grief without making an outward display of it. This confuses the Greeks in their midst who are more accustomed to a show of theatrics when it comes to the ritual of mourning. They expect to see wailing and gnashing of teeth, not a stiff upper lip. Does this lack of remorse implicate the family in some way? Or are these two cultures still trying to come to terms with each other? One, mired in guilt. The other, bearing the burden of memory. Yet both seeking a way forward, beyond death, beyond grief.
On the Greek island of Patmos, the mutilated body of an elderly German man is discovered by the gardener. What makes it highly unusual is the fact that the victim's family was home at the time of the murder. Chief Officer Yannis Patronas is called in to investigate the crime. As he delves into the terrible secrets of the family, clues begin to add up. I enjoyed following the journey of the investigation and how it led Yannis to the horrible truth. I always relish a good mystery and this one certainly delivered on all counts.
Greece and Germany aren't necessarily two countries that come to mind when one thinks of longtime bitter enemies. But in Leta Serafim's WHEN THE DEVIL'S IDLE, she makes it clear lingering wounds are still festering from World War II. The savagery the Nazis inflicted on the Greek people—executing them, torturing them, humiliating them—will never be forgotten. "Homicide was rare in Greece, the murder of a foreigner, rarer still." So when a nation known for its aquamarine seas, its architecture, its philosophers is rocked by the vicious murder of a German national, the distaste Greeks still hold against their northern neighbor is brought to the forefront. And the holdover into the present day is mainly driven by economics. "They're all over Patmos now. Couldn't get here with Hitler, so they bought their way in this time. Their weapon of choice, the Euro." Greeks are embarrassed to be outnumbered in their own country. The detective assigned to the case can't even afford to purchase a voice recorder to collect evidence, so the victim's son has to lend him his. The discrepancy in their financial situations fuels their mutual mistrust. The German family thinks the Greek authorities are inept, incapable of solving the murder while the Greek cops resent the Germans for bringing more bloodshed to their shores, buying their way in to a land that doesn't want them there. "Politicians from both countries might well get involved." And the last thing Greece wants is for the killing to result in an international incident. The authorities want to keep it under the radar, but when they start looking into the victim's past, things get heated when the son alerts the German embassy, hoping to put a halt to the investigation to keep what's in the past, in the past. Tensions are high as the tangled web that weaves the two cultures together through war, pain, and a deep sense of shame comes undone. Old hurts are brought to light, showing that no amount of reparation will ever be enough. If the chance at establishing a new world rests with the young, what happens when they too end up with blood on their hands? Does the cycle of violence ever stop or does it keep going, generation after generation, seemingly without end?
"The Bible was the first murder book. Cain and Abel. Humanity hasn't changed much since it was written." God and man, the relationship between the two is always a source of conflict. And in Leta Serafim's mystery series, she explores how the Greek Orthodox Church is as much an institution of the economically-challenged nation as Socrates and Plato. It's what makes Greek culture an interesting blend of the old and the new, whereby tourists, migrants and the youth of today are quickly wiping away centuries of pride and tradition, the very cradle of Western civilization. But Papa Michalis sees things differently. He's an old priest who likes to tag along on police business. An ardent watcher of American crime shows, he's able to quote Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at will. While he's a lover of fiction, he hasn't given up on humanity just yet. To him, even a man murdered for the heinous acts he committed over the course of a lifetime "is still a child of God." Some on the detectives on the police force think that Papa Michalis is blissfully naive to the pervasive nature of the evil that lurks all around him. They feel he preaches about a just world that really doesn't exist. "Holy fool that he was, he believed everyone was good simply because he was." Yet Papa Michalis brings a voice of wisdom to the story, always taking a more compassionate approach toward the victim's family as well as any possible suspect. He doesn't jump to conclusions. He sees the big picture, and urges the officers he's advising to tread carefully because everything is not always as it seems. "So our troubles are caused by fallen angels?" Papa Michalis shakes his head at such questions. He knows better than to try to have a discussion on theology with a bunch of hardened cops. Yet he provides them with a ray of hope, hope that there's a point to the work that they do, even when they're not able to claim victory in justice.
Patronas is a cop. He slogs through society's underbelly for a living and when he comes home he expects some measure of domestic tranquility. But his ex-wife Dimitra was unable to provide that for him. That's why he's not married anymore. "What he had seen had stayed with him, eaten into his soul like acid." Now he's investigating the murder of an elderly German tourist on the culturally significant Greek isle of Patmos, the same place where, ironically enough, St. John wrote the Book of Revelation. The case doesn't get any easier when it turns out the victim was a member of the Gestapo during World War II, a sadistic Nazi, hiding in plain sight. "Better to live with the devil than a mean woman." Patronas's job is never easy. He viewed his marriage as an escape, something that would take him away from all the darkness and death, and he's bitter that instead Dimitra only made life harder for him. "That his wife who'd kiss the bones of dead saints by the hundreds was more than a little reluctant when it came to kissing him." In his eyes, Dimitra was frigid, whiny, and manipulative. So when Patronas checks into a seaside hotel to set up a home base to conduct his inquiry into the murder, he's immediately taken by the voluptuous innkeeper, Antigone Balis. She doesn't hide the fact that she's a loose woman, fawning over her male patrons in sheer, low-cut dresses. Morality has no place in her life. She's out to make a quick buck and stay in business any way she can. She delights in seducing Patronas with her siren song as he struggles to resist the temptation of getting involved with her. To curb his lust, he goes swimming at night, alone, clinging to a buoy and wishing he had a good woman to cling on to instead. Antigone indicates that she's more than willing to go skinny dipping with him, but he turns her down. Things change when Patronas learns that Dimitra is leaving Greece and moving to Italy to make a fresh start. He calls her, wanting to say goodbye, and Dimitra surprises him, wishing him well and putting aside any hard feelings that remain. Her selfless act frees him from the regret that's been holding him back, more than having sex with Antigone ever could. Patronas ends up arresting those responsible for the crime, but the depravity behind the killing gives him no peace. The only thing that brings any light to his life is the blessing Dimitra gives him, hoping one day he'll be happy again.