I won a copy of Demons Don’t Have Names from a giveaway on the publisher’s website. I was not really sure whether I would truly like it and it’s size intimidated me a little bit. I did read it, however, and I can honestly say now that this is the best and at the same time the worst book that I have read this year.
Title: Οι Δαίμονες Δεν Έχουν Όνομα (Demons Don’t Have Names)
Author: Chrysiida Dimoulidou
Genre: Mystery, Crime
Publisher: Psichogios Publications
Summary: Thanasis Vergis loses the earth beneath his feet when, in May 1972, his thirteen-year-old daughter Drosia drowns in the river outside their village. Her body will not be found, only her shoes and jacket. Almost a year later another girl from the neighboring village mysteriously disappears. Rumors say she eloped with someone who was madly in love with her. A few months later, another girl from the first village disappears with no reason or trace on the day of her birthday. One drowning and two disappearances in the same area cause many questions to arise between both the villagers and the Police, who are looking everywhere for the girls and can’t find any answers. The village is now considered cursed and a cloud of fear lies above the residents’ heads.
Twenty years after after Drosia’s death, a fifteen-year-old girl is found drowned in the same river. The curse strikes once again. And along with this case the Police will re-open three forgotten files. That is when the demons awaken. Because this time, someone will talk and they will reveal truths that no one wants to believe. What happened to those girls who disappeared? Where did they go? Where are they now?
Demons have no names. But they are present and they choose who to torture…
Warning! This review contains one spoiler, but it is something most of the people who will read the book, will be almost certain about from the book summary, so feel free to read my review. The spoiler you may read probably won’t come as a surprise at all.
In yesterday’s post I said that Demons Don’t Have Names was going to be part of my TBR for the #AZDiverse Read-a-thon despite it not being a diverse book, because I needed to finish reading it. I was soooo wrong. This book is diverse in a way that I really didn’t want to know about.
But first things first. I can now understand why Chrysiida Dimoulidou is considered such a great author. She has just become one of my favorite contemporary Greek authors. Her writing was beautiful. There were times when I described her writing as lyrical, poetic. Her metaphors, her images they were all so very well-done.
As for the book itself, it begins in the present, but there are frequent flashbacks to events that happened. It is written like a story within a story within a story, until you reach the end and see how beautifully the stories are all combined together. This narrative style was not very different from what I talked about in my review of The 5th Wave, but what I thought was interesting was the fact that this times I didn’t mind the constant flashbacks and I think I know why. You see, there was a connection between the flashbacks and what was been narrated at the moment. I always knew that the time and place had changed as well as about which part of the past I was reading. This helped me not to get lost in the different stories.
Apart from that, the book kept my interest from beginning to end. At first I was afraid that the flashbacks and stuff would make me want to skip over to a different part of the story. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. The only way I can explain this and describe the book to you is to say that each time the author went a little farther back, you got to see a different part of the entire story. You read about what had happened, you learned about the hows and the whys, and you got a better understanding of the most important characters’ psyches. And each story was told in a way that would keep your interest even if you desperately wanted to get to the end.
Now, since it is a mystery/crime book, I have to about the murderer, don’t I? I can honestly say that this is a book that I don’t believe anyone could have ever guessed its ending, or at least not fully. The author is a maestro when it comes to say just enough to give you the background, but not enough for you to guess the name of the murderer. So, what happened while I was reading was this: Very early in the story I figured out who was the one person that must have known something, but I couldn’t figure out what or how important that something was to the rest of the story. Then there was nothing, until for one tiny moment when something I’d just read didn’t sit very well with me, but that feeling was only enough to make me suspicious that there was a hidden secret and nothing more. Then it happened again and again, but however much I might have tried to figure out how the pieces of the puzzle fit together I simply couldn’t. I had found an obvious connection to the three murders, but the fourth one just didn’t fit. Up until the last less than 100 pages, I had no idea who the murderer was. And that was when the murderer’s name was revealed. Finally, all of the pieces snapped together and there was only one how, only one why that I still could not explain until the last 15 or so pages of the book. And then the ending was a form of catharsis.
Now, I said in the beginning of this post that this was the best and the worst book that I have read this year. And it is true. I also said later that it is a diverse books. That is also true. What I haven’t said is that the diversity of this book has to do with the psychological problems of the murderer. I don’t know if the doctors characterize this particular problem as a mental illness or something else and that is why I didn’t say it was mental illness. What I can say is that it was this problem that made the book the worst I have read this year, because I would have preferred not to have gone anywhere near this subject. Ignorance can be bliss sometimes.
However, I do have something positive to say about this part too. And that is the fact that the author was able to take a taboo subject like this (and wouldn’t you like to know what it is, but I can’t tell you or I’ll spoil the entire book) and she twisted the story in such a way that she made us understand the murderer’s side. And you know what? Even though what he/she did was an abominable thing that they then repeated again and again, I liked that the author did that. I liked it because she dared portray real life just as it is. And in real life the good guys can sometimes be the bad guys too. What I am trying to say is that people even crazy people don’t just do horrible things like murdering teenage girls without a reason. Of course, to an outsider it might look like that, but it is usually not. People don’t just commit horrors, without anything in their backgrounds to lead them to committing said horrors. And the author doesn’t protect the murderer, she doesn’t say that he/she is innocent, but she does explain the part in their background which led them up to that point. She also finds a way to make the reader understand that a person like that is not inherently evil, they are mentally ill (or whatever other word is appropriate) and she makes sure that everyone understands the difference.
I find that admirable. I’ve said before that the murderer’s problem is considered a taboo subject and that people find it so horrible that it is a numbered few of them who have enough tolerance inside them to try and understand the perspective of a person like that. So, for Chrysiida Dimoulidou to not only do that, but also be brave enough to try and make other people see as well, it shows a very special person. (No I don’t have a crush on the woman. I am just saying that she is brave and then some.) It is obvious that she has done a lot of research on this subject and that she has dared to dig deeper than most people would go, in order to give us a full understanding of this character.
Lastly, the book is a great depiction of what Greek people’s lives were like from the 1940’s to the 1990’s. Because the book is set in a village the reader gets a close up view of how people of that time thought, their likes and dislikes, as well as their prejudices and fears. And because you are never given a name for the village there is no way for you to figure out where everything is set, which means it could be anywhere and in turn that means that the reader can place this village in a place he/she is more familiar with, which helps make the reader feel closer to the story. After all, the things that were happening in this village (minus the murders) were typical events of any village in Greece at that time.
Having said all that, I think it is time to close this post. I hope you liked this review and that you read this book, if you are ever given the chance to do that. It is a truly amazing book.
About the author:
Chrysiida Dimoulidou was born and brought up in Serres (Northeastern Greece). She has worked as a flight assistant and journalist. In 1997 she published her first book and since then she has written 30 novels in total as well as some children’s books. All of her books were best-sellers. She lives to write as she says and she has won and been nominated for several awards during the years. One of her books has been translated in English, another in Portuguese and Czech, and a third one is currently beeing translated in Turkish. She has taken script writing classes, has attended seminars about philosophy and she has just written her first two plays. As a person she is approachable and very social, she has traveled all over the world, and she loves reading and research. She is an environmentalist and loves animals, and she believes that our children are our only hope for a peaceful future, provided that they are nurtured properly.
Now it’s your turn…
Did you like this review? Would you pick up Demon’s Don’t Have Names to read it, if it was ever translated? What is your opinion, are murderers and criminals inherently evil? Also, are you interested in reading more contemporary Greek literature?