Winter in Northern Greece and the bones of Santos Volakis, the foremost poet of his generation are being exhumed, the family gathered to pay their respects and receive their due from the will. In the coffin, however, there is a surprise for the mourners. Back at the family house, Volakis’ agent finds a set of new poems and he hires a detective, Hermes Diaktoros, to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the exhumation. Hermes is soon digging around into the life of Volakis and his family when a body is discovered in the grounds of a local church. It seems the local police are confused, but Hermes has a strong inkling as to what has happened; all he has to do is prove it.
The strength of The Whispers of Nemesis is the evocation of place and community. Zouroudi places the reader firmly in Northern Greece, its culture, social relations and culinary delights. There is an interesting range of characters, but it tends to be the side characters who appear fuller and more engaging, for example, Hassan the taxi driver. The main character, the Hermes Diaktoros, is left somewhat anaemic, defined more by his clothes and appearance than his personality and backstory. In fact, we get no backstory and throughout he’s somewhat illusive. The prose is engaging and well expressed, though I rapidly tired of Hermes always being referred to as ‘the fat man.’ Why not use his name? The only time it appears is when he introduces himself to people. Reading ‘the fat man’ two or three times a page was wearing. He’s fat. I got that the first, the second and the hundredth time it was stated. In terms of plot, this was a book of two halves. I was really hooked by the first half, but the story kind of petered out in the second and the resolution was limp having been signposted from a long way out. Overall, an enjoyable read but didn’t quite fulfil the promise of the first few chapters.