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About the author:
The Saint Luke Mystery, a religious thriller set in idyllic Cyprus, introducing the brilliant American sleuth Milton Lessing on the trail of art forgers and killers, is his first novel.
What inspired you to write your book?
Sitting one day on the patio of our villa in Paphos, Cyprus I looked bored watching the whitecaps (the sin of Sloth). My wife said, Why don’t you write a book? She had just finished reading the Da Vinci Code and said, Read it; it’s full of mistakes and misconceptions. You could do that. I replied, Yes, I could write a lot of mistakes and misconceptions, but I couldn’t think of a story like that. The seed was planted, though, and a couple of years later I had a story idea for The Saint Luke Mystery. Every “”thriller” starts out with What-if, and everything follows from tha’t; it’s a petito principi (circular reasoning). So one day I came up with mny What-if – a very wealthy and powerful man wanted to acquire a miraculous holy icon for its supposed healing powers and engaged an art profesor and his artist to paint a fake to replace the icon. That would trrigger a series of catastrophic events. Enter Milton Lessing, ordinary looking, but brilliant Ivy League educated insurance sleuth, whose company is on the hook for $5m.
Here is a short sample from the book:
WEDNESDAY. First Day
Two weeks later, at 7 a.m., a blue Volvo station wagon stopped on the outskirts of Ohmodos village, Southern Cyprus, in front of a dilapidated stone house.
A golden, rust-colored hunting dog, friendly Vizsla breed ran up to the stranger, wagging its tail.
“I’ve got a treat for you, Ulysses, a sop for Cerberus.”
From his pocket, he pulled out a lanate-laced souvlaki. The dog devoured the poisoned sausage eagerly. The man lit a cigarette and waited. Then, he watched in satisfaction as the dog’s back legs started trembling and shaking. It looked up at him with distressed eyes, wondering what happened. Soon, it began to vomit, white foam forming in its mouth and nostrils until it collapsed in the slimy pool that had formed beneath it.
The visitor walked up to the house and pounded on the door.
Seventy-five-year old Neophytous Papacharalambous rubbed the sleep from his eyes, tucked his undershirt into his trousers, hitched up his suspenders, and opened the door. He saw before him in the half-light a tall, menacing man in sunglasses, who looked like the Terminator and seemed to fill up the doorway.
“Are you Dimitris’ uncle?” the man asked in Greek.
“Yes, what do you want?”
“Dimitris sent me for the manila envelope.”
“I don’t know anything about any envelope.”
“That’s the wrong answer!”
The man stepped forward and broke Neophytous’ neck with an expert karate chop and carefully searched the house. He soon found the manila envelope that he had been sent for under a loose floorboard covered by a scatter rug as well as a videocassette and tape, which he also decided to take. Amateurs, he said to himself. He carefully fitted the loose floorboard back in place and covered it with the scatter rug.
He slung the old man’s frail body over his shoulder like a straw-stuffed scarecrow and propped him up behind the steering wheel of his twenty-year-old brown-white Isuzu pickup. He poured zivania into his mouth and sprinkled the liquor all over him; then, he threw the half-empty bottle on the front seat. He wiped his prints off the bottle, revved up the engine, and sent the pickup careening down the road into a large carob tree. Lastly, he put the body of the poisoned dog into the trunk of his car and drove away for his next appointment.
10 a.m. On the Paphos-Limassol road
In a fine humor, Dimitris Papacharalambous, handsome thirty-year-old manager of the Paphos branch of the Old Reliable Insurance Company was driving to a rendezvous with a blackmail victim at the Pithari Tavern in Aphrodite Hills, in his silver metallic Mercedes Benz200C.
He pushed down slowly on the gas pedal and listened with pleasure as the engine purred to his command. With smug satisfaction, he recalled how everyone in the office had congratulated and envied him when he showed it off. This next payment would be just in time because his stock market investments had turned sour and he had run up some other debts. He could use this payment to invest in the hot stock tip that he got from Mario the car salesman. The profit from that would pay off the loan on his insurance policy and the money he had borrowed from his uncle Neophytous. He thought how cleverly he had put them in a corner. Two other people besides him had the manila envelope. If the blackmail victims dared try anything, someone would expose them. They had too much to lose, so he was safe.
The marksman had taken up his position on a cliff overlooking the road. When the car came into sight, the telescopic sight of his Armalite rifle zeroed in on the front, left-side tire of the Mercedes. The crack of the rifle was followed almost immediately by the blow -out of the tire so that it would have been impossible for anyone listening to distinguish the two separate sounds.
Dimitris struggled desperately to regain control of the car, which went into a spin, but there was nothing he could do to save himself. The car crashed through the railing and plunged down the almost vertical face of rock. It hit the ground 100 meters below, rolled over several times, and then burst into flames opposite Petra Tou Romiou, the spot where legend says Aphrodite was born from the sea. A giant wave crashed over it with a hiss.