Hermes Diaktoros, aka “the fat man,” combines the fastidious grooming of Hercules Poirot with the harmless questioning style of Columbo.
He's also an actual deus ex machina, the god Hermes, whose determination to see justice done doesn't always involve an arrest or trial.
“I work on behalf of the authorities, not the police,” he tells a woman in his third outing, “The Doctor of Thessaly.”
A middle-aged woman is left standing at the altar and her fiance is later found, blinded by acid, at a local chapel. Her sister, Noula, wasn't exactly happy that Chrissa Kaligi was getting married, thereby claiming the apartment that was supposed to be the elder daughter's dowry and leaving her the lone spinster.
This is heady stuff for the small-minded, excuse me, small-town gossips, and Diaktoros's main problem is surviving the indifferent cooking at the kafenion where he is staying. Zouroudi's well-written series will charm anyone who's ever visited a Greek island, but she goes darker than many “cozies.” “The Doctor of Thessaly,” for example, looks at the ways women are ignored, abused, and discarded in rural Greece. While Diaktoros may prefer Greek coffee to bush tea, Alexander McCall Smith fans should definitely consider a trip to the Mediterranean.