Journalist tries his hand at murder

An unknown, elusive gunman kills the prime minister. Party insider Antonis Theodoridis tries to find out who the killer is and, more importantly, who smuggled the gun into the prime minister’s office… The jacket of Giorgos Lakopoulos’s book «Who Killed the Prime Minister?» (Kastaniotis) is reminiscent of a poster from a 1940s or ’50s film noir, rendering his source of inspiration quite obvious. And in case the reader hasn’t already noticed, there is a postscript, written by the media-friendly professor of criminology, Yiannis Panoussis, in which he refers to Edmund Wilson and quotes Raymond Chandler. So, what we have here is a «whodunit» combined with a kind of «roman a clef,» not in the usual sense of reporting actual events in the guise of fiction, but of using actual persons and the ways they think and operate to create fictional characters and situations. Quite a few of the characters in the novel are barely disguised politicians from the ruling Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), whom Lakopoulos, a journalist, is pretty familiar with, having covered the party for years as a reporter for the To Vima newspaper. Lakopoulos has also written a book, «PASOK’s Novel,» in which he weaves a number of incidents into a non-linear history of the party. It is this aspect of the book, the fact that someone familiar with politics can easily identify real politicians – Costas Simitis, Theodoros Tsoukatos, Akis Tsochadzopoulos, Michalis Chrysochoidis, Vasso Papandreou, George Papandreou – among the book’s characters, which makes it indisputably attractive to political junkies? Is this enough to sustain interest in the book? Apparently yes, for, less than two months after it appeared, it is already in its third edition. No doubt politicians themselves rushed to read it, although the picture it paints of most of them is hardly flattering. One politician, former minister Alekos Papadopoulos, even reviewed the book – favorably – saying the author is «knowledgeable about party structure, operations and processes.» So at least politicians do recognize themselves in this tale of intrigue and below-the-belt blows. The author’s knowledge of his subject matter does not make this book a good novel. Lakopoulos may be a well-known reporter but he is no Raymond Chandler or James Ellroy. Character development, with few exceptions, is sketchy. And while the author borrows liberally from the devices of police novels, he does so in a mechanical manner that does little to sustain the tension. For example, the slain PM’s aide, in his quest to find the truth, meets a number of party colleagues. Almost each meeting turns his previously established theory upside down and, in between meetings, he turns to the minister for public order to reveal the new prime instigator. This becomes a pattern so predictable it’s almost comic. The ending itself, which adds a final twist to the story, is more of a cop-out rather than a true novelist’s literary device.