Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Review: THE BLACK MONASTERY by Stav Sherez

THE BLACK MONASTERY is Stav Sherez's second crime novel, following his debut THE DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger back in 2005 (there was a five-year gap, and a change in publishers, between Sherez's first and second novels).

Faber & Faber's blurb for THE BLACK MONASTERY says, "People used to come to the small Greek island of Palassos for the historic ruins. Now they come to take drugs and party all night. But the horrific ritual murder of a boy in the grounds of an old monastery brings back memories of two similar deaths in the mid-1970s, and of a mysterious cult who once dwelt in the island’s interior, memories the island has tried hard to forget.

As Nikos, the police chief who has been persuaded back to his home island for the final years of his career, begins his investigation, two Brits arrive on the island: the bestselling crime writer Kitty Carson, on a break from the pressures of work and her strained marriage, and Jason an aspiring writer with a secret of his own. When a second body is discovered - further endangering the island’s lucrative tourist trade - these three characters are thrown together, as the gruesome secrets of the past begin to emerge."

Sherez's style leans towards literary at times, perhaps even becoming over-wordy occasionally, but I really enjoyed the read. He evokes a nice sense of the Greek Island setting, and the changes some such places have endured in the past decades, shifting from history-filled rural getaways to booze and drug-filled party places for yobbish British tourists.

Nikos, Kitty and Jason are an interesting trio of main characters, and Sherez does a nice job giving each of them some substance, and creating tension, drama and intrigue both between them, and between each of them and other characters. The mystery plot bubbles away, keeping the reader interested, and overall I found it a book well worth reading.

Recommended for those that like a bit of atmosphere, history, and societal comment or insight woven into their mysteries.

This book was read and reviewed for Dorte Jakobsen's excellent 2010 Global Reading Challenge.

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