The second book in Peter Papathanasiou’s series featuring Greek-Australian DS George Manolis sees him leave Australia for a Greek holiday. His late father emigrated from the northwesternmost mainland region of Prespes, bordering Albania and North Macedonia, a place where it’s easy to disappear.
Burnt-out from policework, Detective Sergeant George Manolis flies from Australia to Greece for a holiday. Recently divorced and mourning the death of his father, who emigrated from the turbulent Prespes region which straddles the borders of Greece, Albania and North Macedonia, Manolis hopes to reconnect with his roots and heritage.
On arrival, Manolis learns of the disappearance of an ‘invisible’ – a local man who lives without a scrap of paperwork. The police and some locals believe the man’s disappearance was pre-planned, while others suspect foul play. Reluctantly, Manolis agrees to work undercover to find the invisible, and must navigate the complicated relationships of a tiny village where grudges run deep.
It soon becomes clear to Manolis that he may never locate a man who, for all intents and purposes, doesn’t exist. And with the clock ticking, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt the events of today as Manolis’s investigation leads him to uncover a dark and long-forgotten practice.
Detective Sergeant George Manolis’ first outing in Peter Papathanasiou’s The Stoning took him to his childhood home, a small town in outback Australia which he and his parents had fled, late one night, without explanation. This second case sends him even further from home but again takes him back to his roots when his boss, ‘Paul Bloody Porter’, insists he use his leave and go to Greece for the summer.
Manolis heads to the Prespes region, where the Greek border meets those of Albania and Northern Macedonia, and where his parents had lived before emigrating to Australia. There he’s met by Stavros, a friend he’d grown up with in Australia before the family relocated back to Greece. Stavros asks Manolis for help investigating a mutual friend’s disappearance, as the local police are doing nothing because Lefty is what Greeks call “an invisible”, or someone who lives undocumented. It’s not going to be the relaxing break either Manolis or his boss imagined, after all.
I’d enjoyed meeting DS Manolis in The Stoning and getting to know him a little, so I was happy to have this second outing of his lined up and ready to read back-to-back, thanks to the publisher sending me a review copy. You don’t need to have read that before this second book but it does make reference to what happens in that first Australian case and is well worth a read, so I’d recommend starting with that one and giving yourself a double dose of Manolis.
I was intrigued that Manolis was going to be in Greece for this one and wondered how that would work, with him being out of his jurisdiction. But the Prespes region is border country, nebulous by nature, and lends itself to an undercover investigation. Peter Papathansiou’s terrific sense of place is one aspect of The Stoning I particularly enjoyed and here it really comes into its own again. He brings this often overlooked corner of the Greek mainland to life through the pages of The Invisible, showing us how its history and geography have shaped both it and the people who live there, and breathing life into its archaic practices and superstition, long-running feuds and present-day problems. Birds startle and take off in flight, snakes hiss among island ruins, while bears rear up and rabbits scamper through the woods.
Manolis slowly teases out the region’s intriguing secrets as he goes about his covert investigation and we come to understand that the missing Lefty might not be the only Invisible referenced by the book’s title. The people who live here, including those who wander in and find themselves here, are every bit as fascinating as the forgotten landscape they inhabit. Not only is the Prespes hauntingly beautiful but it is also haunted by ghosts, past and present.
The Invisible is a slow burn suspense novel, which introduced me to an area of Greece and its people that I knew very little about and I love that Papathanasiou handles this so deftly, delivering it up alongside Lefty’s puzzling disappearance and Manolis’ subterfuge. The pace also mirrors that of the investigation and the difficulty which Manolis faces when left without a paper, let alone digital, trail to follow. It also seems to fit the people and place Papathansiou is writing about here and the way that they (and it) often feel overlooked, neglected or forgotten.
The conclusion may frustrate some readers who like all the loose ends tied up neatly but I loved how this story resolved and that it left me with some questions and revelations to get my head around even after I’d finished reading The Invisible. It’s part of a series, after all, and one which I look forward to continuing when DS Manolis returns from holiday to his police work in Australia. Although I wouldn’t be averse to him returning to the Prespes again, either. I’ll happily follow Manolis wherever Papathanasiou’s next takes him in what is shaping up to be an intriguing and wickedly dark Greek-Australian noir series.
The Invisible by Peter Papathanasiou is published by MacLehose Press, a Quercus Books imprint. It is published as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback with a paperback due out next year. You can find it at Amazon UK (affiliate link), Bookshop.org (affiliate link), Hive and Waterstones. For more on the author, check out his Blog or Facebook Page or you can follow him over on Twitter.
My thanks to Corinna Zifko at the publisher for sending me a review copy.