Life as murky as a thriller novel

A novel about a serial-killer in Athens is so realistic that its author, Petros Markaris, had to warn readers that it should not be imitated. The reason : it’s about the tax-dodging Greek elite and the victims of the corrupted system.

Published on 16 May 2012 at 09:58

A serial killer is stalking the wealthy suburbs of Athens with an idiosyncratic choice of victims. They are all rich Greeks who have failed to pay their taxes, and their corpses have been left scattered among the ruins of the ancient city, dead of hemlock poisoning, the means of Socrates’ execution.

Greece is going through a lot right now, including a significant surge in crime, but this particular horror is mostly fictional. It is the plot of the latest bestselling novel by Petros Markaris, who has combined the roles of thriller writer and social commentator in Greece to such an extent that he has become one of the most widely quoted voices in the crisis.

The murders at the heart of Markaris’s new book, I Pairaiosi, or The Settlement, resonate strongly with a mass readership furious at the country’s tax-dodging elite whose fecklessness has helped bring Greece to its knees.

Many readers, like its hero-narrator, Inspector Costas Haritos, are torn between disgust and sneaking admiration for the murderer, who calls himself the National Tax Collector, and who is demanding money not for himself but for the national coffers. Such was the public sympathy for the killer that Markaris found it prudent to put a note on the book’s back cover saying: “Warning: This novel is not to be imitated.”

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