Published: September '08
Readers who selected this book also read The Variant of George Darsinos by the same author.
In a small town of the county of Macedonia, specifically in the Villa Athena, death hangs out with greater ease than the villa’s residents. And they are numerous: servants, gardeners, chauffeurs, sons, daughters, cousins, friends, nieces and nephews, in-laws, partners. A lively gallery of provincial stereotypes whose main trait, which oddly they share, is that no one truly appreciates anyone else.
Everyone deceives and is deceived. Everyone conspires as easily as they take breakfast and all are potential victims of an intrafamily plot. Everyone has their eye on the huge estate left by the ill-mannered family patriarch when he dies unexpectedly at an engagement party (was it a suicide? was it by illness? an accident? or murder?) .
Every word uttered by residents and guests, every conversation, every action, every movement triggers the shivers of a death foretold
that the reader cannot identify until the very last page. In this mystery-shrouded crime novel every character could be victim or perpetrator. In reality nobody has an alibi. And when an alibi exists it is quickly overturned by an ever-twisting plot.
In a dark but superficially innocent world the clues pointing to the murderer are constantly obscured by the heroes’ souls. But the author –with the same mastery he displayed in his previous novel, The Variant of Giorgos Darsinos
– handles his characters not as spineless pawns but as what they are: solitary beings tied to the chessboard of a brutal life.
Anyone who fondly recalls Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Niggers will discover a worthy heir in Galanopoulos. And anyone who enjoyed The Variant of Giorgos Darsinos will simply applaud.
A review in Athens Voice newspaper
Neokles Galanopoulos’s second book, after The Variant of George Darsinos
(Topos 2007), is also a satire of Greek reality, this time set in the salons of the nouveau riche. A sudden death in Villa Athina, a mansion in an unidentified province of the northern Greek region of Macedonia, becomes the catalyst for revelations. The suicide of patriarch Alkis Zavvos opens with a C4 move (recalling the Fischer-Spassky showdown) a game with many opponents. The reading of Zavvos’s will sets off a chain of murders – and offers an opportunity for the villa’s residents to settle personal scores.
Galanopoulos’s style is not just unconventional – it is mischievous. He breaks up the narrative with chunks of haiku, employs chess terms and analogies, and changes the tone from mezzo-forte to agitato, switches viewpoints from chapter to chapter and just when he has the reader against the wall, overturns everything. This is perhaps –to paraphrase his own words– because murder mysteries that are not clearly resolved inspire the reader to tie loose ends himself. If Galanopoulos’s literary debut was a goal scored from the locker rooms, then this is the 2-0 that seals the match.
Thanasis Minas, Athens Voice, 2.10.08
A review in Pontiki Art
Every self-respecting detective story needs a villa to house the protagonists. This specific villa is located somewhere in northern Greece. Its residents, aside from the staff, are a mixed bag of relatives joined by familial or marital ties, and separated by wide class differences. But all have something in common: no one holds the others in any esteem. And it is at this point, as well as at others, that the author, in his second novel since The Variant of George Darsinos
, manages to imbue his characters with all those familiar ‘Greek’ traits.
Following the classic detective-story formula, Galanopoulos gathers all the characters in a space where the rich patriarch has died, of unknown causes. The battle for his huge estate sets the stage for an intense confrontation that brings to the fore all the negative human character traits. The plot piques the reader’s interest as it touches on all the unexpected human reactions. Everything points to a tragedy, which leaves no breathing room as it propels the reader through the pages towards the resolution – which Neokles Galanopoulos serves up like dessert after the main meal.
Xenofontas Broutzakis, Pontiki art, 09.10.2008
Neokles Galanopoulos is a fan –and faithful servant– of the British detective story. In The Variant of George Darsinos this is documented in an academic rather than a literary manner. In Death Out of Nowhere, his devotion to the classic form of the detective genre is also imprinted in the setting –a luxurious mansion in a rural town of northern Greece, a wealthy businessman, and those conspiring against him. To some, this may recall the settings of Agatha Christie or Murder by Death featuring Truman Capote; personally it reminded me of a play by Maxim Gorky.
Petros Markaris, “Vivliodromio”, Ta Nea daily 13.12.08
The author of the taunting detective novel, The Variant of George Darsinos, returns with a new work, written with the same vigor and mood to tease.
Filipos Filipou, Diavazo literary review, issue 491, December 2008
Click here for a sample translation in English and Turkish.