From the Devil’s Farm, a Greek Islands Mystery
Coffeetown Press/Courtesy

“From the Devil’s Farm, a Greek Islands Mystery,” by Leta Serafim, Coffeetown Press, 2017, 208 pages, trade paperback, $14.95

Mysterious murders are so rare on the Greek Islands that solving a couple makes you the go-to expert. That is Yiannis Patronas.

“From the Devil’s Farm, a Greek Islands Mystery,” by Leta Serafim, is the third in a series centered on Yiannis Patronas.

Patronas is Chios’ chief police officer. His wife has left him, and he is broke. The Greek financial crisis means inflation has wiped out the value of his salary. He lives in his office at the police station and suspects his boss does not trust him. Regardless, this boss sends Patronas and his three ill-sorted assistants to the island of Sifnos.

A Greek-American visitor discovered the body of a child at the site of an ancient Phoenician temple. The child was killed in the manner of an ancient pagan sacrifice. Who did it is unknown. The murder is potentially explosive because the child was a Syrian refugee, one of a flood which washed ashore on Greece over the past few years.

Patronas’ investigation is handicapped in several ways. There are too many potential suspects. It could be local Greek nationalists from the Golden Dawn movement, another refugee or a visiting American professor with knowledge of the ancient ritual used. Or are neopagans on the island trying to revive old Phoenician religions?

Patronas has to sort out all of the clues with the assistance of the local policeman (steady but behind his depth), the woman who discovered the body (an art instructor at a Boston community college summering on Sifnos studying its pottery), and his own three musketeers: the competent Giogos Temblos, the bumbling Evangelos Demos, and Orthodox priest Father Michalis, who has become an unpaid assistant to the atheistic Patronas.

As with Serifim’s previous mysteries, “From the Devil’s Farm” combines a clever mystery, a spectacular setting (the island of Sifnos), and Greek culture with a good dose of humor mixed in. The tale takes readers from the Greek Islands to Athens and Turkey as the solution unfolds. Throw in romance as Patronas finds himself attracted to a pretty, redheaded pottery instructor, and the result is an enormously entertaining story.

Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.

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