Gory Greece

Author Jeffrey Siger is an expert at making idyllic locations super spooky. The award-winning crime novelist talks about why he left a job as a lawyer to move to Mykonos to write

There is something more interesting about foul play in idyllic locations. A murder in Mykonos? Fascinating.
That’s what crime novelist Jeffrey Siger plays on. His series of crime novels based in Greece have become international bestsellers, with his first, Murder in Mykonos, voted as Greece’s number one best-selling English language book of summer in 2009.
All his five books to date have been located in Greek hotspots and follow chilling murder mysteries full of politics and revenge.
The stories centre around chief inspector Andreas Kaldis, described by Jeffrey as “Greece’s police force number one ass-kicker in Athens”.
Jeffrey perfectly creates a truly Greek version of a modern-day Sherlock Homes. He’s somewhat anti-social, hates having to play by bureaucracy rules and hates the cushy job he’s placed in Mykonos (in the first book).
As Andreas himself muses, he’s been “promoted to Mykonos’ chief dog-and-cat protector for Athenian weekenders”.
Inspector Kaldis finds himself at the start of the books just tapping at an inevitable iceberg of murder, suspicion and politics, something not many Greek detectives would willingly chase. That’s what makes the character so intriguing and likable.
With fantastic titles filled with alliterations like Assassins of Athens, Target Tinos, and Prey on Patmos, murder finds Kaldis wherever he is stationed, and sees Jeffrey explore the true meaning of the modern Greek condition.
“I try to present the country’s rich cultural history and enormously colourful present in a way that reveals Greece in all its glory – and gory,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
He sees the mystery genre as a vehicle for exploring the “inherent ambiguities of Greece in an entertaining but thought-provoking manner”.
The detail and accuracy of each location in the books will have you believe that Jeffrey is more than a Grecophile. In fact, he’s now a local.
Born in the US and a lawyer by trade, Jeffrey made the life-altering decision to move to Mykonos and abandon his New York City law firm, all to write crime novels. He had some first-hand experience with crime, even heading a special council to a group responsible for reporting on New York City’s prison conditions.
It was make or break for him the minute he arrived in Mykonos.
“I spent a career as a lawyer trying to solve real life mysteries, so having accepted reluctantly that I would not live forever and knowing writing was my true passion, making the decision to change my life was remarkably easy,” he muses.
Now, five years later, the series has become absolute page turners, released in Greek and English simultaneously as well as internationally in different languages.
His latest book, Mykonos after Midnight, released early September, brings Chief inspector Kaldis back to his first stomping ground.
The book centres around the murder of a legendary nightclub owner on the island. Kaldis takes on the case without hesitation but finds himself “battling ruthless opportunists preying on his country’s weakened financial condition and learning there is a high, unexpected price to pay for his curiosity”.
As a crime author living in Greece, his writings have become somewhat prophetic in the light of Greece’s debt and political environment. Murder In Mykonos (2008) focused upon Greece’s dependency on tourism, Assassins of Athens (2010) examined the attitudes of Greeks towards their government, Prey on Patmos (2011) studied the relationship between Greeks and their church, and his latest novel, Mykonos After Midnight (2013) explored Greece as prey to those seeking to exploit its financial crisis.
In Target Tinos (2012), Jeffrey wasn’t afraid to investigate the prejudices Greeks hold against immigrants, and explored it through the country’s issues with political extremism.
The story starts out when the remains of two bodies, charred beyond recognition, are discovered chained together amid bits and pieces of an incinerated Greek flag.
The press immediately calls for justice until the dead are identified as gypsies and the story dies.
“My views on Greek society are at the very heart of my novels,” Jeffrey reveals.
“Perhaps because I’m a foreigner writer along the edges of societal changes in a land where I did not grow up, I have the advantage of viewing things without the preconceived notions and biases that come with being native to a culture.”
That is probably why his character can be so unique in his shortcomings and his skills. He’s a strong presence and sometimes too confident.
Andreas Kaldis is a great way for Jeffrey to explore the nitty gritty of Greece’s psyche, and he makes no apology for the fact the character is used in such a way.
“I like the way serious issues, political and otherwise, are expressed around him, and as my writing is intended to explore issues confronting modern-day Greece in a way that accurately conveys to non-Greeks what I see, Andreas is the perfect character for such expression,” he says.
Although he admits that the character of Inspector Kaldis has a habit of running away from him, almost too uncontrollable when he sits down to write his fate, the author loves to place him in dangerous situations.
“Readers deserve the unexpected, and it’s an exhausting effort for a writer to find that balance in a unique, atypical but still always entertaining plot,” he says.
Inspiration can be the hardest thing for a writer. Sitting down with a blank word document will convince anyone to get up and busy themselves with something else.
For Jeffrey, finding a compelling plot comes from the media, keeping abreast of what’s happening in Greece at the moment and from koutsobolio – yep, just plain old gossip.
“My actual writing process begins when a conversation or event triggers an idea for a story,” he reveals.
Visitors will easily open up about their thoughts and experiences over an ouzo on the beach.
The murder in the story is what puts everything in perspective, and with little tidbits in the prologues, Jeffrey keeps readers a little ahead of the game.
It’s a great way for Jeffrey to start to understand how Andreas Kaldis would tackle a situation.
But, like a true lawyer, a lot of research is involved.
“I quickly sketch out the bones of what I see as the plot line and spend the next six months immersed in research and verifying details of the venues I describe,” he says.
Now, armed with five books under his belt, Jeffrey is sketching out his new novel. The sixth in the series and still unnamed, the book is set to delve into Greek attitudes towards family.
Set in the Mani region of the Peloponnese, the book is currently in its first draft process and has no release date yet.
Writing what seems like a book a year, Jeffrey at least has one reward: he knows who the murderer is way before anyone else.
Jeffrey Siger’s books are available at all good book stores, or online. at bookdepository.com, amazon.com