Tuesday, 8 July 2003

Paul Johnston: A Deeper Shade of Blue (2002)

Edition: Hodder & Stoughton, 2002
Review number: 1170

After five crime novels set in a near future Edinburgh dictatorship, Johnston has moved on with A Deeper Shade of Blue. Set in contemporary Greece, it updates such thrillers as Mary Stewart's My Brother Michael as an Athenian private detective investigates the disappearance of a young woman on the remote Cycladean island of Trigono.

One similarity between this novel and My Brother Michael, other than the setting, is that it is quickly clear that at least part of the mystery here is connected to the activities of British agents and the (in this case rather reluctant) activities of the Resistance during the War. The tortuous politics of Greece since then are also involved (the detective himself is the sone of one of the one time leaders of the Greek Communist party - a similar connection to that existing between Quintilian Dalrymple and the rulers of Edinburgh in Johnston's other novels). In fact, everything you could imagine about the darker side of Greece seems to be a part of A Deeper Shade of Blue - black market antiquities, drug smuggling, extremes of sexual depravity, village vendettas and resentment of tourists - and this makes the novel rather difficult to get into.

The complexity of the background to the puzzle is not the only problem with A Deeper Shade of Blue. While reading it, the impression gained is that it is too long, and that each chapter is too long. Something of the tension and excitement that this sort of crime story, at the thriller end of the genre, needs is missing. There is much to enjoy in A Deeper Shade of Blue, but it should move faster.

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