A jilted bride weeps on an empty beach, a local doctor is attacked in an isolated churchyard – trouble has come at a bad time to Morfi, just as the backwater village is making headlines with a visit from a government minister. Fortunately, where there’s trouble there’s Hermes Diaktoros, the mysterious fat man whose tennis shoes are always pristine and whose methods are always unorthodox. Hermes must solve a brutal crime, thwart the petty machinations of the town’s ex-mayor and pour oil on the troubled waters of a sisters’ relationship – but how can he solve a mystery that not even the victim wants to be solved?…
About the Author
Born and raised in the north of England, Anne Zouroudi has spent much of her adult life in less dour climates. Following some years working in the Colorado Rockies and on Wall Street, she abandoned a lucrative career to lead a simpler life in the Greek islands. Her attachment to Greece remains strong, and the country is the inspiration for much of her writing. She now lives in Derbyshire’s Peak District with her son.
1. The Doctor of Thessaly opens with a passage from Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book 2. What connection do the grotesque images in this passage have to the characters and themes in the book?
3. The author usually refers to Hermes Diaktoros as “the fat man” rather than by his name. What effect does this have on our interpretation of the detective? How does this differ from the description he gives himself – “I am Hermes Diaktoros, of Athens” (p34)? Are there any other situations where the author uses names to give us more information about her characters?
3. “I think you have mistaken my intention. I have a copy of my own – though it’s a little dog-eared now, after loans to the many people I felt might benefit from a little teaching in good manners. I didn’t mean the book for me; I meant it for you. I strongly suggest you read it; it will make a better man of you by far” Is the Greek detective being cruel, kind or comic in this passage? Where else does he use this kind of irony and sarcasm in his detection work and to what effect?
4. “Where downstairs was ageing, rustic, dour and make-do, the apartment was a remarkable contrast: modern and comfortable, furnished in the urban style of Athens” p90. Here we see a startling contrast between tradition and progress. Are there any other situations in the novel where we see a contrast between old and new? What do you think the author war trying to achieve with the juxtaposition of these images?
5. “There are storms to the north” said the fat man to himself, “but not for us. No storms for us, just yet.” p65. How important are the themes of premonition and foreboding in the novel, both for the individual characters and the plot as a whole?
6. Many of the characters in The Doctor of Thessaly are, or have been responsible for the care of an elderly or dying person. In what ways have they approached this kind of responsibility and how does this reflect on their character?
7. The setting of the book is Morfi, a fictional town in rural Greece. Does the author give a convincing description of this kind of landscape? What kind of writing techniques does she use?
8. “My interest in not in courts and trials, but in justice. The two are not often the same.” p226. Is Hermes Diaktoros justified in deciding what “justice” is? Do you agree with Hermes Diaktoros that the punishment inflicted on the doctor “so perfectly fits the crimes” (p230)?
9. Many female characters in The Doctor of Thessaly endure hardship and injustice in their lives. As the novel unfolds, Noula, Chrissa and Litsa all face difficult situations, but who do you think deals with their problems in the most effective way? What do you think the future holds for each of them?
10. The Doctor of Thessaly is part of a crime series. How does Hermes Diaktoros compare to other fictional detectives in similar sets of books? Do you feel the Grecian setting has an influence on the characterisation of Hermes Diaktoros?
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larson
The Poirot series by Agatha Christie
The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
The Inspector Montalbano Series by Andrea Camilleri
Case Histories by Kate Atkinson