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Zone Defence - Book Review

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by Alison Muirhead (subscribe)
Doting grandmother and grey nomad who should join Volunteers Anonymous and is greatly in favour of a ten day week. So much to do, so little time.
Published January 27th 2013
The Greek Psyche Exposed by One of its Own
How do you choose your reading matter? Some are born with a penchant for various genres, some achieve this through serendipitous events such as reading an appealing book review, and others have enthusiastic neighbours who thrust tomes upon them.

This reviewer recently read a review of The Settlement by Markaris, a novel based on the current financial crisis in Greece. Unfortunately the Brisbane City Council library did not yet have it on its shelves, so I chose its sole novel by this author.

A Greek author writing stories of contemporary Greece appealed to this reviewer's Greek heritage, and the fact that she made a sentimental journey to the island of her grandfather's childhood just a few years ago, on the eve of the Global Financial Crisis.

Nothing of this author's perceptive view of the Greek character is lost in translation. Inspector Costas Haritos has a critical view of his fellow countrymen which is spot on. He takes no prisoners. The author is a well-known commentator on the Greek fiscal crisis, and he pulls no punches.

Haritos is on holiday with his rather dim but caring wife at his in-laws' home on a small island off the Greek coast. There is the usual backbiting when relatives are closely quartered. The island suffers an earthquake, killing no one, but causing great discomfort. "Where is the government at such times? We pay our taxes!" Such irony. The reviewer's experience is of handing over payments for various services with nary a receipt in sight. Citizens paid for services with wallets bulging with folding money they had received from their fellow countrymen and tourists alike.

If your genre is crime, there is an overwhelming number of novels where that crime is murder, and so it is with Zone Defence. The earthquake causes a landslide and the first body metaphorically lands in Inspector Horitos' lap. Once he returns to the mainland another murder occurs, and the novel revolves around how these two murders are related.

Common factors are greed, abuse of illicit substances, lust, blackmail, money laundering, match fixing and the sword that modern day Greece has impaled itself on political corruption. It is a question of what comes first? Political or public corruption or are they intertwined?

The novel was written in 2005 when the EU should have seen the writing on the wall. Politicians were lining their own pockets and paying companies conducting public opinion polls to fabricate results in their favour. "Farmers" such as Horitos' brother-in-law were being paid to grow crops then bury them. There is a reference to payment of public servants under the table when Horitos is amazed to find he has had immediate treatment for a suspected heart attack without money changing hands.

For an entertaining insight into the Greek psyche, strikes, illegal immigrants and all, you can't go past this most entertaining and informative semi-fiction. Don't know whether there is such a genre, but that seems the most apt for this novel. There are many clues as to how the birthplace of civilisation became such a cot case.

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Why? To delve into the Greek psyche
Where: Libraries and Bookshops
Cost: Free from your local library
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