By K. L. Romo
No author mixes life in Greece with suspense like Jeffrey Siger. From the Parthenon in Athens to the party life of the mega-wealthy on the island of Mykonos, Siger immerses readers in all things Greek.
In his newest police procedural, THE MYKONOS MOB, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis and his number two, Yianni Kouros of the Special Crimes Unit become entangled in ruthless mob warfare as they investigate the murder of a retired police colonel who specialized in security shakedowns on the wrong side of the law.
Andreas and Yianni leave Athens for the party island of Mykonos to investigate the slaying of Colonel Aktipis. As they piece together facts, they realize that the island’s dark criminal elements are at the heart of the assassination. But which of the powerful crime bosses? After escaping a hit man’s attempt to murder them, their investigation intensifies as they shake up the island’s most powerful players.
When Yianni falls for an American ex-pat named Toni, a piano-bar performer whose day job is tracking down stolen property for wealthy tourists, the investigation becomes even more complicated. Toni and Andreas’s wife Lila vow to help a young girl escape a life of prostitution at the hands of the son of Angelos Karavakis, the island’s premier crime boss. Not only must Andreas and Yianni protect themselves, but the safety of Toni and Lila come to the forefront.
Can Andreas and Yianni infiltrate “the world of the night” to find the muscle behind the growing number of murders? And what will happen if the power of the Mykonos mob families plummets into chaos?
Not only does Siger take readers on a thrill ride through the narrow winding streets of Mykonos, his novels also have another purpose—to address serious social issues by weaving Greece’s societal complexities into his stories. Siger “creates a collage of what Greece is all about.”
“Ten books ago, when I started writing about Andreas Kaldis, I didn’t intend to become a chronicler of Greece’s trials and tribulations,” he says. “I wanted to write a standalone about the people, culture, and politics of an island I knew intimately. I settled upon the thriller format because it was the best vehicle to explore how a tourist island society might respond to a threat against its newfound economic glory. When that book, Murder in Mykonos, became Greece’s #1 bestselling English-language novel and hit The New York Times’ ‘radar list’ of bestselling hardcovers, I figured I’d better stick with my characters and the way serious issues—political and otherwise—could be expressed around them.”
Siger also addresses Greece’s financial crisis in his books.
“I don’t see how anyone can write about contemporary Greece without addressing that elephant in the room,” he says. “It is a subject front and center in the minds of Greeks who fear for their futures, trapped amid a national economy unlikely to right itself for decades.
“Greece’s continuing financial crisis plays in the background of all my recent books, but in Mykonos After Midnight (Kaldis #5), I tackled the crisis head on. It’s a story filled with some of my favorite villains of all time and loads of international intrigue, but at its core are the battles still plaguing Greece’s recovery: self-determination versus foreign control, unbiased justice versus political expediency, respect for the land versus unthinking exploitation, and loyalty to one another versus profit-driven self-interest.”
Siger’s ninth Inspector Kaldis book, An Aegean April, takes place on the Greek island of Lesvos, and addresses devastating Mediterranean refugee issues.
“Over a matter of months in 2015, 600,000 refugees fled by sea to Lesvos. [To put this number into perspective], that’s seven times Lesvos’s 86,000 population, and equivalent to over 60 million boat people landing in NYC or 28 million in LA,” he says. “Greece—in the throes of a crippling financial crisis—could not deal with that onslaught, and its fellow EU members offered little more than platitudes.
“As is so often the case amid governmental disorganization, many profited from the inevitable catastrophe. Smugglers, their human-trafficking colleagues, ancillary businesses, and those who protected them, turned people-smuggling into a multi-billion- euro industry in Turkey.”
Just like the picture of a drowned child on an Aegean beach captured the world’s attention in 2015, Siger knew the only way to tell the story of the refugee crisis was to get specific and personalize the tragedy that so many consider a nebulous crisis.
Siger has moved from Pennsylvania to Wall Street to Mykonos. How did he go from high-powered Wall Street attorney to full-time thriller writer on an island in Greece?
“Twenty years ago I bumped into a friend at a party. We found that we each shared a desire to write but hadn’t done it while building our careers,” he says. “A day later I received an email from her starting with ‘once upon a time.’ She’d written a scene. I wrote back with a scene and over the next several months, a novella evolved. Then one day she called me and said, ‘Jeffrey, you’re really good at this, you should write real books.’
“Soon I began to write seriously—finishing a couple of novels, getting a few agents, and receiving a plethora of publisher rejections. But I still couldn’t bring myself to give up my day job, even though I realized I preferred writing to practicing law. Then, about 15 years ago, the realization hit me that I wouldn’t live forever. I decided to unite my loves of Greece and writing—I walked away from my law practice to write full time among the people and politics of Greece. And I’ve never looked back.”
And although not of Greek origins, Siger is an honorary Greek. Mykonians call him the “American Mykoniate” because of his love for their island.
Siger explains the main message he’d like readers to take away from THE MYKONOS MOB: “People who thirst for vice will always make money if providers and seekers come together to do their business. But the cost is the community life and family values you once cherished.”
And Siger shares something that many people don’t know about him.
“I entered high school thinking I would be a writer, only to be discouraged when a football teammate read something in English class so spectacular, I knew I could never write as well,” he says. “So, I retreated into an academic curriculum that ultimately led to my life as a Wall Street lawyer. The irony is that although I’m now a full-time novelist, I will never be as good as my teammate, for he is one of America’s greatest living writers—John Edgar Wideman, winner of such honors as the Pen/Faulkner, MacArthur Fellowship, American Book Award, and Dos Passos Prize.”
Don’t worry, Siger—we bestow upon you the honorary title of the “Greek Novel” God.
Jeffrey Siger is an American living on the Aegean Greek island of Mykonos. A Pittsburgh native and former Wall Street lawyer, he gave up his career as a name partner in his own New York City law firm to write mystery thrillers that tell more than just a fast-paced story. His Left Coast Crime- and Barry Award-nominated novels are aimed at exploring serious societal issues confronting modern day Greece in a tell-it-like-it-is style while touching upon the country’s ancient roots.
Jeffrey is honored to have served as chair of the national board of Bouchercon, the country’s largest mystery convention, and as adjunct professor of English at Washington & Jefferson College, teaching mystery writing.
To learn more about Jeffrey and his work, please visit his website.
Interested in becoming a member of the International Thriller Writers? ITW offers Active and Associate memberships.