||Brief Reviews - Fiction
by George Kaufman
A SHIMMERING Greek island, dominated by a colony of rich people, artists, and artist wannabes. A simmering political "situation." A body, mysteriously discovered the morning after a party. A young rogue detective handed the dicey assignment of finding out what happened.
Robert MacLean has all the ingredients for a top-notch whodunit, and a skilful touch in manipulating them, in his new thriller, Home from the Party (Ronsdale, 195 pages, $12.95 paper). His trump card is his protagonist, the police captain Kosta Konstantinou, an expatriate who has returned to help build the "new Greece." Clever, attractive, and all too human, Kosta stumbles into a witches' brew of political intrigue, sexual gamesmanship, class warfare, and private ambition. Seeing the island society through his highly opinionated eyes is a reader's delight.
As narrator, though, Kosta is the book's weakness as well as its strength. The story becomes more and more about the self-possessed detective's search for his place in the new Greece, and less about who killed whom. Kosta is almost too strong a character. And the cast of colourful suspects is sometimes too large to keep track of without a program.
Ultimately, nothing can take away from the eloquent attractions of this book. It's just that MacLean is so good at playing with the traditional guess-who formula that it's a shock when the story turns out to be both more, and less, than a classic murder mystery.