detective inspector kostas charitos in athens

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It must have been about the Albanian. He had been seen sneaking around the house where we had found the slain couple last Tuesday. The front door had been open all morning. But nobody had bothered to take a look inside. What is there to look for in a dungeon-like shell of a building where one window is unglazed and the other is boarded up? Finally, around noon, a curious neighbour who had been watching the door wide open took heart. It took her about an hour to call us, as she kept fainting in between. When we arrived, two women were in the process of splashing water in her face. Just like you do with fish to make them look freshly caught.
A naked mattress was spread out on the cement floor. A woman of about twenty-five was lying on it. There was a gash on her neck that looked like a bleeding mouth torn open. Her right hand was clawed into the mattress. The colour of her nightdress was no longer visible. It was covered in blood. The man next to her was perhaps five years older. He had fallen over and his chest was sticking out over the mattress. His eyes seemed to be staring at a cockroach that was calmly walking past at that moment. He had five knife stabs in his back: three consecutive horizontal ones, travelling from the hollow of his heart towards his right shoulder.

from: Hellas Channel
(my own translation)

Each Morning … Coffee and Croissant

Kostas Charitos is a detective inspector and head of a team that investigates murders (and other serious crimes) in Athens. He does his job well and has a high success rate. However, he seems to have reached the end of his career some years ago, although he is not yet ready to retire. (At the beginning of the series he is probably in his mid to late forties; in the following novels he ages by perhaps ten years or so, which does not happen in parallel with the publications).

What does Charitos do wrong? He always endeavours to solve his cases – and he doesn’t show any consideration of … whoever. He seeks the truth, the perpetrator … and it doesn’t matter to him who it is. In the jungle of Greek bureaucracy, between big industrialists and successful small and medium-sized businesses and in the political quagmire, no-one is popular unless they are prepared to sit back and watch, to keep quiet, to remain silent, to give up … Of course Charitos is incorruptible.

At the beginning of his career in the police force, Charitos experienced the Colonels’ Regime and worked for the junta, albeit only in the rank and file. Meanwhile, Greece is in trouble, sliding from one economic crisis to the next, unemployment is high even among young academics, including Charitos’ daughter – it looks like the Greek state is on the verge of collapse. It is only in the final volumes of the series that things brighten up again on the horizon.

Charito’s investigations are always set against the backdrop of the Greek state crisis. Its effects on everyday life are incorporated into the novels, affecting both poor and rich Greeks – and of course the broad middle class of the population. What they all have in common is that there is always a certain business acumen everywhere, which sometimes takes on strange forms and leads to more or less serious crimes, which sometimes even end up on Charito’s desk.

What does Charito’s life look like? In the morning, he goes to his office and first enjoys a coffee and a croissant. Then he devotes himself to reading the newspaper, perhaps he is called in to see his boss – or he works on a case with his team. In this case, however, he likes to hand out tasks and choose a lucrative job for himself. He has a nose for a solution, even if it sometimes takes a long time.

Sometimes there’s lunch, sometimes not. Charitos can rest assured that his wife Adriani has always prepared a delicious dinner for him. Adriani is an excellent cook. In the first novels – in the 90s – the relationship between Kostas and Adriani is undercooled. Kostas often behaves like a macho man. Later, this is all put into perspective … Kostas turns out to be a loving family man and respects Adriani.

The novels are written in the first person: Kostas Charitos tells everything from start to finish from his own point of view. His detailed knowledge of Athens and the Athenian street labyrinth, which he masters time and again, is admirable.

Charitos is particularly concerned about his daughter Katerina, who is maturing into a lawyer. He and his wife do everything for their only child. Eventually they are joined by Fanis, a doctor, who is accepted as their son-in-law after quite a while. Charitos’ small universe continues to grow over the course of the series: there is Katerina’s law firm partner and her husband, there is Sissis, an old communist whom Charitos remembers from the days of the junta. Back then, Sissis was one of the political prisoners and Charitos was one of the guards. In the last novels, they all sail through the criminal cases together.

Of course, everything always starts with a dead body. Even if it sometimes doesn’t seem like it at first glance, it’s a murder. And more and more bodies follow. Charitos fights his way through. Again and again there are letters of confession for individual deaths – letters of confession that come from ominous Greek organisations. These organisations kill or have people killed, it seems. Charitos always uncovers who is pulling the strings in the end and learns that very private reasons are often the trigger. And, of course, Charitos repeatedly comes up against the entanglement of politics and business, which pursue their very own interests and use the state apparatus at will.

… and by the way: Charitos’ only hobby is reading encyclopaedias.

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a faint cold fear thrills through my veins ... william shakespeare