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The Green Lady

The Green Lady by Paul Johnston

Author's Introduction

The last Mavros adventure, The Silver Stain, was infused with 20th century history, especially the German attack on and occupation of Crete. The Green Lady (‘What, you’ve written a novel about a district nurse?’ Val McDermid) is a rather different cup of Greek coffee.

First of all, the setting is mainland Greece and a particularly industrialized area south of Delphi, raising environmental concerns. Second, events take place against the backdrop of the 2004 Olympic Games – many people at the time were appalled at the expense and profiteering, and the Games are now seen as having contributed to the country’s present economic disaster. Third, Mavros’s search for a missing teenage girl is seriously hampered by the fact that he can’t ask anyone about her as the family have pretended she is at school abroad – I like to make his life as difficult as possible. And finally, I make use of Greek mythology, something I’ve largely avoided in the series, apart from the Hercules/ Heracles myth in The Last Red Death.

As a former classicist I have a longstanding interest in Greek history and myth, but I’ve rarely found the latter useful in my crime writing. As Agatha Christie’s tendentious use of myth in The Labours of Hercules proves, the old tales can easily turn into clichés. In The Green Lady, however, the myth of Demeter and her lost daughter Persephone is thematically relevant in various ways, so I haven’t held back. It really is the case that a few Greeks still worship the Olympian gods, which makes the issue even more interesting. I’ve always been fascinated by the Demeter/ Persephone myth, with its juxtaposition of loss and grief with fertility and joy. Those ties with fertility mean that it’s a mirror image of the despoiled landscape I present. Also, I don’t hold back on the full horror of Persephone’s abduction by Hades, presiding god of the underworld. It’s clear enough in the myth that she was raped, then forced to become Hades’s wife for part of every year. Child sex abuse is a taboo subject in Greece, but it happens there as in every other country.

Another major feature of The Green Lady is the involvement in the case of Mavros’s mouthy friend, the Fat Man. This happened before, to a lesser extent, again in The Last Red Death. This time, Yiorgos is present from beginning to end, cursing, complaining and generally getting in the way of things. His interest in food is, of course, to the fore…

The Green Lady also marks the return of a particularly nasty specimen from Mavros’s past. Readers of The Golden Silence will remember the Father and Son, a pair of torturers. The latter has been out of the country and has learned additional skills. When Mavros comes into his sights, all hell (see Hades above) breaks loose…

The novel takes place in the summer, but there is much darkness in it. Then again, if you think this one’s noir, wait for the next, The Black Life

UK Hardback ISBN 978-1780290348 published October 2012

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