When the Devil’s Idle,” a novel by Leta Serafim, Coffeetown Press, 2015, 192 pages, $13.95 (trade paperback)
Yiannis Patronas is Chief Officer of the Khíos Police in today’s Greece. The job pays poorly. He ekes out his inadequate pay with a second job, overseeing security on an archaeological dig. His marriage has failed. Now, a former colleague wants Yiannis to lead a murder investigation on another island.
So opens “When the Devil’s Idle,” a novel by Leta Serafim, a sequel to “The Devil Takes Half,” her previous Greek Islands mystery.
The dead man is an elderly German tourist visiting Patmos with his family. The victim was killed by a blow to the head. Afterward a swastika was carved onto his forehead. The local man on the scene, Evangelos Demos, is incompetent. He wants Yiannis’s help because Yiannis has solved a murder earlier, mostly through luck. But Evangelos is connected in Athens, and gets Yiannis assigned as lead investigator.
Yiannis arrives to find the crime scene hopelessly compromised by his bungling colleague. The murder, involving a foreign tourist, is politically sensitive.
Yiannis brings two assistants from Khíos to help investigate, his second-in-command, Giorgos Tembelos and Papa Michalis. Michalis an elderly, semiretired Orthodox priest, works part-time for the Khíos Police. He is also the atheistic Yiannis’s best friend. Between this unorthodox Watson and the dubious support of Evangelos, Yiannis begins to unpick the mystery surrounding the death. Yiannis soon realizes the key to the puzzle lies in the dead man’s past.
This novel’s attraction lies in Serifm’s portrayal of life in modern Greece and the complex relationships between Yiannis and those around him. Serafim deftly weaves Greece’s debt crisis into the plot, and provides readers with fully-developed, complex characters. She lightens a grim plotline with the interactions between Yiannis and Papa Michalis.
“When the Devil’s Idle” is a procedural mystery with a satisfying story.