Published: November 2007
Readers who selected this book also read Death out of Nowhere by the same author.
Is writing detective novels a way to let off criminal urges? Could every writer of murder-mysteries be a potential murderer? This is what Greek police investigating the violent death of best-selling murder-mystery writer Giorgos Darsinos seem to believe, which is why they’ve taken in for questioning five aspiring mystery writers —four men and one woman. Police officers have the suspects read the victim’s diary, in which he names them as his murderers-to-be, because he had rejected their manuscripts while serving as a consultant to a large publishing house.
The five suspects deny any involvement in the crime, but realize they must decipher the diary to unravel its author’s intentions in naming them as they look for clues that will lead to the truth. Pitting each of the five against the contents of the diary and against each other brings police and suspects face to face with Darsinos’s past and readers to make their own deductions who killed Darsinos (from 31 possible leads).
Neokles Galanopoulos makes his debut as a novelist, but is well-versed in the detective novel. The Variant of Giorgos Darsinos, an intricately layered murder mystery accented by a subtle humor, navigates plot twists and red herrings to reach a surprise ending. Filled with references to Greek and foreign masterpieces of the genre, The Variant of Giorgos Darsinos can also be read as a perfectly entertaining (and succinct) introduction to the history of the detective novel.
Τhe best critics in Greece have unanimously agreed on the top literary qualities of the book, and have stressed its dense artfully organized plot and the author's ability to build a page turner that keeps the reader's mind in constant concern.
Praise for the book:
Neokles Galanopoulos, following in Agatha Christie’s footsteps (he has studied her work in depth just as he has studied the classics of the genre, from Hammet and Chandler to Elroy and Yannis Maris) makes his debut with a novel-riddle that heralds a happy future in writing. George Darsinos, a popular crime writer is found knifed to death in his home in Nea Kifissia, leaving behind a half-finished manuscript. Who killed him? There are five suspects—four men and one woman—who all had reason to murder him as they’re crime writers whose work had been rejected by the victim’s publishing house. Kokkosis, the young police captain who takes on the case, gathers the suspects in a lawyer’s office to discuss various scenarios with them. This crime novel by a young intellectual is filled with references to the world crime genre and aims at an intellectual audience.
Filipos Filipou, Diavazo literary review, December 2007
Galanopoulos’s thrilling crime novel has it all: suspense, humor, sarcasm, and incredible situations that everyone can imagine but few can transform into a well-structured story. Although at first glance this book seems directed at crime aficionados, it’s a noir story for all tastes. There are thirty-odd possibilities about who and how done it for the reader to consider and which give other editors, book critics, and intellectual bureaucrats reason to watch their back from now on.
Tina Mandilara, Proto Thema newspaper, 16.12.07
Time and time again we’ve said that the crime thriller today is interesting mainly as a social novel. And not because this is how we want to read it but because that’s how the writers of the genre organize their stories. Indeed, since crime writing was recognized as a respected member of the literary family, the genre branched out ambitiously. Thus we now have the historical crime novel, the psychoanalytical crime novel, the philosophical crime novel and so on.
But there are more recent and rather unexpected developments. In recent years we’ve seen a reaction to this hybridization of the genre, a reverse trend towards its original and undiluted form: that of the puzzle that is finally solved in a rational, complete, and clean way. (…)
But the unexpected in this case is that what is being reclaimed is nothing more than the character of the crime novel as a purely intellectual exercise. Those expressing this trend are no mere hacks or greedy shoddy writers trying to capture a readership with no demands. On the contrary, they are intellectuals who have a rounded education and do not lack literary talent. Last year we saw this in Dimitris Mamaloukas and later in the work of Neokles Galanopoulos. So here’s a puzzle as hard to solve as those in their respective mysteries and perhaps more important.
Let’s look at Neokles Galanopoulos’s bio as it appears on the cover flap. He’s young (born in 1972), a lawyer, active in labour law, with a broad range of interests that span literary theory and translation to the history of dictionaries, philosophy, cinema, and, of course, crime novels. All this does not suggest a naïve consumer and now mimic of pulp literature or an opportunist riding the latest fad.
Let’s try to describe his book. The plot revolves around the murder of a successful crime writer and consulting editor to a publishing house. In a manuscript resembling a journal stored on his computer, the victim identifies as his prospective murderers five other crime writers whose manuscripts he has rejected. The novel has three parts. In the first, the reader is given, in a manner reminiscent of the presentation of a mathematical problem, exhaustive details about the victim, his movements on the day of his murder and a description of the place where his body is found. The second part is comprised of this journal which also includes several unpublished crime stories or ideas for such stories. The third part is divided into two—the first is a description of the investigating detective’s decision to gather the suspects and reveal the murderer—a classic stratagem in crime novels. The difference here is that the solution offered is wrong and the real solution is revealed in the book’s last nineteen pages. Even with this surprise at the end, there’s not much to make the story interesting. It takes place in a microcosm—the crime writers’ milieu, which is of little interest to others.
The characters are unimportant and one-dimensional. The motive for the crime couldn’t be more cliché and isn’t even much of a motive. The solution is truly rational and complete but so technically complicated that it’s forgotten before we shut the book. How exciting can all this be for a writer with Galanopoulos’s bio?
The answer is offered by the author himself in the book through his dead hero: the pleasure of constructing a difficult riddle and devising a clever solution. Darsinos is sarcastic about writers who deviate from classic crime literature, accusing them of being too slack intellectually to devise puzzles with new solutions (which he believes are inexhaustible). Truth be told, this defence of classic crime literature that stimulates author and readers with puzzles of logic should not be rejected out of hand. Other writers are praised for mixing reality with fantasy or producing manuscripts as composites of other texts. Why then should someone not play around with crime quizzes?
I keep looking over Galanopoulos’s bio, as well as Mamaloukas’s (and there are other examples too) and a suspicion starts to form in my mind. These new, cultured, curious writers must be tired of the moral and empirical relativity of the contemporary crime novel, perhaps because of the relativity of our times. Faced with this image of a confused and uncertain world they create another where everything has an explanation, no matter how convoluted things seem, where good and evil are distinct even though we rarely meet one without the other. This is just a hypothesis, of course.
Demosthenes Kurtovic, Ta Nea daily, January 19, 2008
For the full reviews visit the Readers Guide, where you will also find an interview with the author.