Saturday, April 14, 2012

Type MYKONOS for Murder

Jeffrey Siger

We are delighted to welcome the multi-talented Jeffrey Siger as our weekend guest. The Greek Press called Jeffrey Siger's work “prophetic,” Eurocrime described him as a “very gifted American author...on a par with other American authors such as Joseph Wambaugh or Ed McBain,” and the City of San Francisco awarded him its Certificate of Honor citing that his “acclaimed books have not only explored modern Greek society and its ancient roots but have inspired political change in Greece.”  TARGET TINOS is the fourth novel in his Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis series, following up on his internationally best-selling Murder in Mykonos, Assassins of Athens, and Prey on Patmos: An Aegean Prophecy.

Target Tinos (Starred PW review)

I live half the year on the Greek Aegean island of Mykonos.  The rest of the time I’m based in the greater New York City area.  Late last week I returned to Mykonos after being away for far longer than I like.  An hour or so after I landed I was sitting at table in a harbor taverna waving to passing friends and having nothing more pressing to do than contemplate my wine.  At peace, relaxed, no pressure—aside of course from finishing that new Greece-based mystery I’m working on, but that would come later; after I’d participated in all of the Easter Week festivities I’d made the centerpiece of my 2011 book, Prey on Patmos. (Greek Orthodox Easter is April 16th)

That’s just about where my head was when I decided perfect wasn’t good enough and reached for my iPhone to check for emails.  A big mistake, which I promptly compounded by opening one from my good friend and fellow Poisoned Pen Press writer, the just plain all-round terrific Charlotte Hinger.

I love whatever Charlotte writes, even emails, so I figured opening hers was a safe bet.  Little did I realize the invitation lurking within.  In her own inimitable style she let me know there would be absolutely no bad feelings if I turned down her offer to guest blog on TYPE M FOR MURDER.  Even on such short notice how could I possibly turn down that honor?  No way.  Besides, I’d just finished my Saturday blog for Murder is Everywhere and if I missed a day at the beach or a night on the town, so what—that new book research could wait. But what to write about?  No way anyone wanted to read a BSP piece on my new mystery coming out in June, the one titled TARGET: TINOS which Publishers Weekly gave a starred review and called “Superb…a winner.”  Uhh uh, I’d need another subject.

That’s when I hit upon the obvious.  TM4Mers, welcome to Easter Week on Mykonos:

Easter is by far the main event in Eastern Orthodoxy.  It is preceded by more than a week of significant religious and cultural observations.  And on Mykonos, Easter literally brings the island back to life.

In the winter, Mykonos is a sleepy island village with virtually no tourists, no business, few open bars, fewer restaurants, and no clubs.  But come Easter Week everything changes.  Red and yellow springtime poppies burst to life all over the island’s hillsides, and those and still more varieties of flowers embroider the blanket of green covering the nearby holy island of Delos.  There are Church services every day of Holy Week, as well as daily preparations for the feast to come at the end.  Breads and cookies are readied on Monday and Tuesday, baking is done on Wednesday, and eggs are dyed red on Thursday, the day Christ was put up on the Cross.

By Thursday, Mykonos is filled with mainland Greeks flocking to their vacation homes and others looking to participate in a perfect example of spiritual and temporal coexistence: Easter church rituals strictly observed during the day, followed by the island’s as nearly hallowed party traditions through the night.  But that taste of the coming mid-summer craziness is short lived, for if you don’t catch the action that weekend come by in June, because Mykonos is back in hibernation come Tuesday.
Evening services on Good Friday start at seven in the old town’s three main churches, Kiriake, Metropolis, and Panachra.  At precisely nine, each church’s clergy and worshipers leave their church in separate processions carrying their church’s epitaphios (the painted or embroidered cloth representation of Christ on a bier elaborately adorned in spring flowers and symbolizing his tomb) along a prearranged route, winding past the other two churches before ending up back at their own to complete the service.  It represents the funeral of Christ, and Mykonians and visitors line the route, some standing on balconies and sprinkling the participants below with a mixture of rose water and perfumes as used on Christ’s body when taken down from the cross.

The same three churches serve as the scene of the following night’s Holy Saturday services.  Most generally start heading off to church around ten, but for certain everyone is there by midnight.  For that is the high point of Easter, when church bells ring out across Greece and even total strangers exchange the traditional Christos Anesti and Alithos Anesti greetings that Christ has risen, kiss each other, and light each other’s candles to share the light and joy of the occasion—a light brought to Greece for just this purpose from the Holy Flame of Christ’s nativity cave in Jerusalem.  Worshipers carry the light back into their homes or their favorite restaurants, except for the hearty souls who remain in church for the balance of a service that lasts hours more into the morning.

Now it is time to challenge each other with the customary one-to-one smacking of those dyed-red eggs for good luck to the winner (mine always cracks first) and devour the traditional mayiritsa soup (made from parts of a lamb you may ask me about if you really want to know), fluffy tsoureki Easter bread, and salads to break the forty-day fast leading up to Easter.

But the big feast, the one everyone looks forward to, comes on Sunday.  That’s when all the work of the week and all the spring lambs find their purpose.  There is church, too, of course, but this day is more about celebrating with family and friends.  And eating.

Dieting—and back to work time—starts Monday.  Kalo Paska
 —Jeffrey Siger


Beth said...

As always, Jeff, you provide wonderful information in a manner that leaves the reader wanting more.

I am sure that your friends are as happy to have you back on Mykonos as you are to be there.

Thanks, too, for introducing me to this very interesting blog.

Liz said...

Another great post on a blog I enjoy.

Happy Easter.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Liz, Beth--Jeff's credibility was called into question when he said nice things about me. However the Mykonos comments had a ring of truth.
Charlotte Hinger

Jeffrey Siger said...

Thanks, Beth and Lil, for joining me over here. Sorry about the late notice.

Charlotte, thank you for inviting me to post on your terrific site and, if you'll permit me to somewhat twist how "thus quoth the raven," I am in your debt "evermore."

Lenny Kleinfeld said...


Tell that two-timing slut of a donkey on your shoulder it's all over between us. I thought that beast was MY fan. Now I see he'll read any good novel that comes along.

Heartbroken & humiliated,

Irene Bennett Brown said...

Enjoyed Easter week on Mykonos very much. Thanks, Jeffrey, and big thanks to you, Charlotte, for getting Jeff over here to TypeM.

Rick Blechta said...

Jeff—Many thanks for stopping by. Great piece.

Beth said...

Jeff and Lenny - I wasn't going to bring it up but that little creature has lived in my house for years. I don't know how you got it but my children all adults, are going to be very displeased.

Jeffrey Siger said...

Lenny, Lenny, you're a Hollywood type. Haven't you ever seen a knock off before? This one just happens to be of a photo I proudly participated in and affectionately refer to as, "Donkey does "SHOOTERS & CHASERS, the funniest mystery every written." The original is on my wall right next to a sacred icon.

Yes, I conned the little critter into posing (au naturel) once again, because a story having to do with my past--that I shall reveal to you on some other occasion--was resurrected as the result of a friend seeing my original pose with the aforementioned S&C and donkey. He insisted I do one of me holding Greece's original English- language version of "Murder in Mykonos" or he'd never let me back in his bar.

On balance, perhaps I should have taken door #2, because now I appear to stand accused of kidnapping (assnapping?) All I can say is "Sorry," Beth, but some critters are just born to wander.

Irene and Rick, thanks for having me. Sorry about the rowdy crowd I attracted.

Rick Blechta said...

Rowdy is good. Come back anytime. I'll leave the light on.

Leighton Gage said...

I'm shocked, simply shocked, at the comportment of that slut of a two-timing donkey.

I don't blame you, Jeff.
I compliment you on a great post. And, as you say, some creatures are simply born to wander.

But for those of us who remember it IS heartbreaking.

And, Lenny, I share your pain.

Jeffrey Siger said...

Thanks, Rick, for your kind offer. I was a bit concerned I might have to use a pseudonym to get back in the door.

And, yes, Leighton, shocking. Who knows whose shoulder donkey may end up on next?

Charlotte Hinger said...

Jeff, thank you so much for the decoy donkey that called attention away from my careless FB posting from which some readers inferred that you had posed on the dome of the Kansas state capitol in a loincloth.

Of course the donkey is just barely better.

Jeffrey Siger said...

It was my pleasure bringing an ass (formally) into the conversation.:)