Representations of Paros
in crime fiction

Text: Mary Margariti, Αuthor / Doctoral graduate of the University of the Aegean

The representation of Paros in Greek crime fiction is frequent and one can easily notice that the beguiling Cycladic island has been used a number of times as the setting of quite a few detective novels. And yet, Paros is not an island with a particularly high crime rate –quite the opposite.

When I asked
some locals about criminality on Paros, the answers I got were about robberies, rapes, drug dealing, and so forth, with the most sensational case being an unanticipated killing taking place amid the escape of a few bank robbers about a decade ago. In other words, in the island’s real world, there have never been murders committed in public places for personal or other motives and causing such a stir as the ones portrayed in fiction in so detailed and convincing a manner. And neither have there been any murders as the ones recounted in crime novels set on other Greek islands or the Greek countryside in general for that matter.

In this regard, the detective novels that make reference to Paros feature various aspects of the daily life of both locals and foreigners who are implicated in or harbour criminal activity. For instance, against the backdrop of a touristy Paros where miscellaneous folks, especially upper-class, are on vacation during the summer season, a person happens to be murdered and the culprit is being sought out within a closed circle of suspects –a plot alluding to an Agatha Christie’s whodunit. The novel entitled «Crime on Paros» (2014) by Ghiorgos Bakouris fits well within this genre. The wife of a well-known businessman is murdered, with the motive turning out to be purely personal. The characters move about the island, to and from the port, past beaches and recreation spots. In fact, it was deemed appropriate that the book should include a map of the island displaying the place names mentioned in the story, as well as a sketch of the characters’ place of residence.

A crime narrated in a similar tone is depicted in the novel «Crime on Antiparos» (2015) by Nikos Faroupos, set on the island of the title, which is adjacent to Paros as well as the author’s birthplace. Death lurks in the summer’s languor and the cosmopolitan ambience. Centred around a family who goes through the disappearance of one of its members, the novel reveals the economic misery and moral destitution of a corrupt society. The case is taken on by a police officer who is on the island on holidays, much as happens in «Crime on Paros». It is noteworthy that both novels make a direct reference to the location/setting of the action in their title, relating their plot to the Cycladic island during the summer season.

Paros is also mentioned in the novel «The Observer of Death» (2018) by Nikos Ventouris, a permanent resident of the island, and, more specifically, of Ambelas where, in the summer of 1995, a renowned heart surgeon gets murdered, an incident that shakes the local community.

Illegal fishing is another issue Nikos Ventouris addresses in his novel «Psarokokalo» (2019) which is themed around three murders committed in plain sight at Naoussa, Paros, and illegal fish trafficking, with Parian, Naxian and Kalymnian fishermen being enmeshed. The story unfolds in the winter of 2015 with the main characters being local residents, so the book depicts everyday life on Paros at its normal pace.

References to the island of Paros have been made from time to time by various authors in detective novels or short stories, such as Yannis Ragos and Eftychia Giannakis, at times from the perspective of a local resident, and other times from the standpoint of a visitor. It is worth noticing that the representation of the island in works of fiction is multifaceted and the point of view of the author varies depending on the way they relate to the island. A common feature shared by most of these works is the Cycladic light that pervades the timeless Greek summer, an atmosphere standing in stark contrast to the deceit, the murders and the crimes brewing underneath the surface. After all, this is what real life is actually like.