A dark, gritty noir set in Athens in June 2011 when hundreds of thousands gathered to protest the government’s austerity policies. Riot police patrol the crowd and major intersections are cordoned off. It is within this climate that we meet a cast of characters who live in an Athens most tourists never see - that of strip clubs, punk rock shows, and dive bars. The reader is first introduced to Ciprian Varia, an ex-cop - now toothless vagrant - with a violent past he is trying to come to grips with; There’s Pallas and Junesong - a young, hip lesbian couple struggling to keep their relationship alive; Two bouncers at a dive bar with mobster aspirations, one of which dreams of writing a screenplay called Ghost Wraith; and a trio of hitmen on an intersecting course, one of whom has an obsession with JFK.
What I really loved about this novel was its refusal to follow the typical “plot centered” structure of your average crime/noir novel. What you have here instead is a more kaleidoscopic structure, weaving in and out of time and place where the focus is more on the characters’ inner demons than they are on the action - although there is plenty of that - gritty, bloody, and violent action. However it doesn’t take center stage and this is what makes this novel so interesting to me. The interactions between the characters reflects more of what this novel is truly about in my view - the current state of Greece: it’s economic collapse, its society’s losers, it’s racist underpinnings, the hidden away places as far from the Parthenon as one could get.
There is a very human story here, underneath the grime, sex and violence. It is an exploration into the consequences of one’s actions as well as how, to some, life means as little to them as someone squashing a bug. There is a hell of a lot of suspense here too, the writing stripped to its bare bones but lyrical enough to keep the reader engaged, eager to see how all of it is going to play out. It would be too easy - and clichéd - to compare this to Quentin Tarantino, with its crisp dialogue and interesting, quirky characters. In my view this is much closer to Mediterranean Noir writers like Jean-Claude Izzo and Massimo Carlotto. If you dig those writers, you will most definitely dig this. Recommended.