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The Mykonos Mob: A Murder. A Love Story...

What could be a better formula for success in a mystery novel with a central recurring detective character than a murder and a love story? Add to this a location like a Greek island with cachet--Mykonos, the playground of the rich and the young.

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The Dresser has just read Jeffrey Siger's The Mykonos Mob, the tenth novel in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery series. The Dresser enjoyed this novel in much the same way as she enjoyed Siger's previous novels. She loves his characters, the Greek setting, and the inclusion of Greek traditions and culture into the story.

What sings to the Dresser's heart are the two strong women featured in this novel. One is Lila Vardi, the upper-class wife of Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, and the other is Toni, an American ex-pat who plays piano at a Mykonos bar. (The inside story on Toni's missing last name is that on Mykonos most foreigners are known only by their first names. When questioned about the missing name, the author said he also wanted to keep Toni from being "typecast.") Lila is in an identity crisis after having two children, one five and the other seven-months old. She feels conflicted about just raising children and not making a difference in the outside world.

When we meet Toni, she is throwing rocks to chase away two men who are assaulting a bikini-clad young woman on the beach. Immediately behind Toni comes Yianni Kouros, the sidekick detective of Chief Inspector Kaldis. Toni's rock bombardment sends one man running away and wounds the other in the forehead, making him release his victim and slowing him down so Yianni, despite a brandished switchblade and tussle, can arrest him. Even with handcuffs on, the perp spit disdainfully at Toni, who "stepped forward with her left foot and let loose a World Cup-class kick to the man's balls with her right." Guess you might say, Dear Reader, this rapist won't be getting his rocks off any time soon. The Dresser gives the author credit for glancing off the subject of Olympics (Toni's a World Cup-class kick), the championship games the Greeks invented.

And yes, you are correct if you guessed that Yianni falls in love with Toni. The question throughout the novel is, can Toni put aside her defenses to love him back? The Dresser can see more novels in this series that include Toni and Yianni. One drawback is that the author doesn't write fluid love scenes. Because the Dresser wants Jeffrey Siger to write more novels in this series, she will outrageously suggest that he check out the Book Fox's post "50 Incredibly Written Sex Scenes in Books."

As with any engaging detective novel, more than one story simultaneously threads through the pages. The novel opens with an introduction to the corrupt retired police Colonel who gets murdered outside a suburban Athens restaurants. The owner of the restaurant has just met with the Colonel to ask for his "protection" for a potential club on Mykonos. As this thread develops, we learn that the Colonel shook down all Mykonos businesses, but there were also other operators in the world of crime and its hierarchy on this popular party island.

What Jeffrey Siger is particularly good at is describing the unique places in Greece where we meet his characters. For example, Siger has the Chief and his detective visit the richest, most powerful mobster in Greece who lives in the suburban Athens hills of the affluent Palaio Psychico with its winding one-way streets. We also get the powerful imagery of the Mykonos windmills. Here's a rather cinematic scene near the windmills:

"The parked up by the six windmills, and walked down the ramp leading to the bay at Little Venice. The wind had picked up a bit, so rather than dodging waves along the shoreline walkway, they cut through a restaurant's outdoor seating area, past the island's only Catholic church, and onto the area's main street. Barely two meters wide in places, this street had once brimmed with shops attuned to the tastes and needs of locals and the more practically minded tourists. Today, though, much of it took aim at challenging the high-end glitz along Matogianni Street--Mykonos' Fifth Avenue--with its version of pricey fashion, jewelry, and pretentious clubbing experiences."

Where things get a little strange is when Siger uses American pop culture coming from the mouths of his Greek characters. Take this exchange on the subject of Lila's discontent with her life as she is exploring it with her husband Andreas:

....... "I'm not vain enough to think anything I might do would ever rise to the level of achieving world peace, but I would like to be significant to a broader swath of society than just our family. My fundraising work gave me that sort of satisfaction."
......."...If I'm reading you correctly, you've ruled out any sort of commercial enterprise."
.........."Yes, I must say I'm attracted to eleemosynary causes."
......."Are we having one of those, 'You say potato, I say potahto,' moments, à la Ella Fitzgerald?"
.......Lila offered him a blank stare. Then rolled her eyes. "Okay, I get it. 'You say charity, I say eleemosynary.'"

Pronunciation of potato in Greek doesn't have the issue of British versus American variance in English. The Dresser will dare now to venture into punctuation and say that
"Okay, I get it. 'You say charity, I say eleemosynary.'"
should read:
"Okay, I get it. You say 'charity,' I say 'eleemosynary.'"
or the words charity and eleemosynary should be set in Italics without the use of single quotes in that sentence.

For the Dresser, the use of a multi-syllabic word like eleemosynary in a detective novel, even if it is coming out of the mouth of an upper-class, well-educated woman like Lila, makes the Dresser double down on her criticism. After all, how many readers of mystery novels would know such an overblown word? Maybe Andreas would more appropriately tease his wife about pulling educational rank over a man accustomed to street language?
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However, the most important aspect of a mystery is the surprise of the story, the action, the resolution. Suffice it to say that Toni and Lila team up and get in trouble. Coming to their rescue are two other women who, without guns, take down the enemies. The Dresser looks forward to the next Jeffrey Siger novel in the Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis mystery series.

In Elizabeth Gross' poem "Sometimes this city feels like a real small town" the element of murderous surprise takes over the happy image of an old dress that becomes a joke between a mother and daughter. Is this dress, referred to as the wedding dress, so uncomfortably tight that the narrator daughter cannot get it off, now that she is trying it on or is it a metaphor for the daughter not being able to commit to marriage? This is not even to mention what happened to the unfortunate woman who admired the wedding dress. The poem mirrors the discomfort Toni in The Mykonos Mob feels in her conflict about whether she can commit to the attraction she is experiencing toward the detective Yianni Kouros. Her discomfort is contrasted with the life of her important new friend Lila Vardi, who loves her police officer husband and their young children even as she struggles to regain her independence as a person who can make a difference not only for her family but also for others outside the family.


Sometimes this city feels like a real small town


It was my birthday, and I wore the dress
my mother called the wedding dress, a joke
because I couldn't really pull it off--vintage
drop waist and yellowing lace. But still I whirled
through the café door high on headphone music
and thank goodness some pretty girl smiled
nice dress! from the arm of a scraggly guy.
A few months go by, I see her picture
in the paper looking bright-eyed, headline
reads: found dead. Hacked up, head in a soup pot,
charred, limbs in the oven, the rest scattered
through the over-air-conditioned rooms she
shared with her ex, she'd tried to kick him out--
no go--he stayed there with her body
eleven days, then checked in a high downtown
hotel and jumped the roof. They'd made the news,
a love story, the year before, in chaos--
kept making cocktails through the storm and found
each other--police couldn't get them to leave this town.

by Elizabeth Gross
from this body / that lightning show

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 22, 2019 9:21 PM.

The previous post in this blog was A First Woman on Stage: Nell Gwynn.

The next post in this blog is Poet Lore at the Cusp of Change.

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