Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Mr Christopoulos - Charity Blackstock

First published 1963; paperback cover shown is by Ballantine Books (USA) 1965.

It is 1961 and Tom Raven, Fleet Street reporter, is returning to Cyprus three years after wartime atrocities. He has been asked to interview Andreas Christopoulos. Once a feared thug, Christopoulos is now the Minister of Public Relations and his murderous, terrorist past with the EOKA has been buried. Raven's first stop is a British-run medical community where Christopoulos is due to attend a reception held in his honour. Members of this community have a mixed reaction to the reception.

Katzi, the school teacher, is angered by the visit and the community's acceptance of a man who just a few years ago was killing their friends and countrymen. Stavros, the laboratory technician, was forced to watch as his brother was burned to death by Christopoulos and his thugs.

Raven himself has a past with Christopoulos. Three years ago, as a war reporter, he befriended an EOKA member who lured him into a trap with Christopoulos waiting on the other side. Barely escaping with his life, Raven returned to England with recurrent nightmares and a heavily battered face.

Set over a period of six days, this novel is classed as a mystery but reads as a thriller. Tragically, while Raven, Stavros and countless others have spent years mourning loved ones and dreaming of bloody vengeance, Christopoulos cannot fathom this. When Raven meets Christopoulos, three years after he beat Raven half to death and planned to set him alight, Christopoulos doesn't even remember him.

"Oh, come off it, Mr Christopoulos," he said roughly. "Of course we've met before. We met in Platres. You had me knocked out, then you hit me in the face and would have burned me alive if I hadn't managed to get away."

Mr Christopoulos, amazingly, beamed at him. He looked delighted. He even began to laugh, as if he were the cleverest man in the world. "Why of course," he said. "But that was war."

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