Johnston, Paul - 'The White Sea'
This is the seventh Alex Mavros mystery which is set in Greece. Alex is unusual in that he is a PI of half Scottish/half Greek blood and he lives with his Scottish mother Dorothy. In this unusual story the police approach him and offer him 250,000 euros to start an investigation for a missing Greek billionaire, Kostas Gatsos. The deal is that he will get the same fee again if he is successful. Alex can't believe his good fortune and starts to look into the circumstances of the kidnapping immediately. Unusually, the police have promised that they won't interfere in his methods or require regular updates.
This multi-faceted story then starts along three different narratives. Firstly we have Alex and his colleagues and relations looking into the case from their viewpoint. We learn that Alex lost his wife Niki some years before and because of the problems of the Greek economy and worries over his mother's health has moved back into the family home; Alex had an elder brother but he disappeared many years previously when Greece was ruled by a military junta. Alex is haunted by memories of his elder brother. Alex starts checking out all the clues as to the whereabouts of the missing billionaire.
In another narrative of this story we learn of the brutal predicament of Kostas Gatsos, the Greek billionaire everyone is searching for and the terrible conditions he is being held under. There are scenes of torture which those with a weak stomach may find hard to read. The captors keep imposing conditions on their victim and when he either refuses to comply or just for the hell of it they have a mock trial and all of the judges are wearing unusual face masks. The sentence is always guilty and then they commit some unspeakable torture on him.
Another thread to this book is about someone travelling on an Australian passport that names him as 'Jim Thompson'. He seems to live several different lives and is married to two different women and has complete identities in these arrangements; it is always a puzzle because the reader cannot relate this person to any of the other characters in the book, that is until we reach the final explosive chapter when all these separate strands come together into a tremendously exciting conclusion which was worth waiting for.
I enjoyed this story enormously as it was the second "Alex Mavros" story that I've read. I read the brilliant THE BLACK LIFE published in August 2013 but I also read for review purposes one of the stories in his "Matt Wells" series - THE DEATH LIST. This writer has great skills in making his very plot-driven, well-researched books extremely gripping for his readers and I look forward to reading more of his work in the future. Recommended.
Terry Halligan, England