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Sunday, 30 August 2020

‘Fire on the Island’ by Timothy Jay Smith

Published by Arcade Crimewise,
7 July 2020.
ISBN:978-1-950691-60-9 (HB)

When FBI agent, Nick Damigos, arrives in a small village on a Greek island, all is not well.  He has come to investigate a series of fires that have been threatening the village and it’s not long before he discovers that a large fuel tank is probably the target for the next and final fire – a fire that is likely to destroy the whole village.  Who would want to do that and why?  Like everybody else in Greece the villagers are struggling with a sharp downturn in their economy and an influx of refugees that is discouraging the normal quota of tourists.  Burning a village and ruining people’s livelihoods will only add to their problems.  Faced with malicious fire from the moment he arrives on the Island, Nick also faces a continuous battle to come to terms with the traumatic origin of the multitude of burn scars disfiguring the skin on his own back.

There are some strange people living in the village. One of the strangest is the priest whose agenda is to get himself a decent parish in a proper town and to make enough money to buy his mother a good flat.  His methods, which include deliberately damaging his church’s bell tower, and making and selling brilliant copies - or even the originals - of icons from the churches he serves, are unorthodox to say the least. As, incidentally, is the way the Lord rewards him for his troubles.

Vassoula and her ‘accidental’ brother Takis (they are not related but were adopted by the same set of parents) are another odd couple. Of Turkish descent, they possibly have an axe to grind because their ancestor’s land was taken by the Greeks after the great exchange a few generations previously.  Is Vassoula’s affair with the Captain of the coast guard - he who is in charge of the fuel tank - as innocent as it seems? And what will become of Nick’s affair with Takis?  

Mystery or no mystery, for me the joy in this story lies in the interrelationships between its warm and resilient characters.  Lydia’s family is a case in point.  She, her husband, Lefteris, her mother and father, Shirley and Lukas, and her teenage daughter, Athina, leap off the pages as living, breathing individuals with their own sets of values, aspirations and problems.  Athina is desperate to grab life and love with both hands. Has she enough strength of will to withstand her mother’s wishes for a supposedly better life for her daughter off the island?  Young as she is, can Athina recognise where, and with whom, her future lies?

Fire on the Island provides a delightfully easy holiday read whilst never for a moment disguising just how hard life is for the islanders and their refugee guests.  As befits the setting there is plenty of romance and intrigue in the air as individuals and couples struggle to come to terms with life as it is and not the utopian dream they wish it could be. 
Reviewer Angela Crowther

Timothy Jay Smith has travelled the world collecting stories and characters for his novels and screenplays which have received high praise. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel. He won the Paris Prize for Fiction for his first book, A Vision of Angels. Kirkus Reviews called Cooper’s Promise “literary dynamite” and selected it as one of the Best Books of 2012. Tim was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for his short fiction, "Stolen Memories." His screenplays have won numerous international competitions. Tim is the founder of the Smith Prize for Political Theatre. He lives in France.

Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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