The Black Life (Crème de la Crime, €18.99), his sixth to feature the Greek-Scottish private detective Alex Mavros, is rooted in the past, although it’s a past that becomes more relevant with each passing day. Hired to investigate the apparently miraculous reappearance of Aron Samuel, a Jewish man thought to have died in Auschwitz, Mavros travels to the city of Thessalonika. Soon he finds himself embroiled in a tale that links the extermination camps of the Third Reich with the recent rise of the fascist Greek political party, Phoenix Rises. What follows is a powerful novel on many levels. Johnston doesn’t shy away from describing the hellish activities at Auschwitz, and he further explores the extent of the collaboration that existed between Greek citizens and the German authorities when it came to deporting the Jewish population of Thessalonika. He also investigates the activities of those Jewish men and women who took their revenge on former Nazis in the post-WWII years, weaving the narrative strands through a political tapestry that includes the beliefs of Mavros himself, whose own family suffered terribly for their Communist leanings during the reign of the Colonels. Harrowing in places, it’s a gripping private eye novel that offers a chilling snapshot of modern Greece. – Declan Burke
This review was first published in the Irish Times.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.