During the winter months, books are a great way to escape from the chilly temperatures and travel to far off destinations without having to pack a suitcase or endure weather-related flight delays to get there. Cozying up with a good book and a warm beverage on a wintry day is ideal this time of year and can inspire plans for upcoming vacations as well.
With a compelling plot and strong characters, Fire on the Island by Timothy Jay Smith transports the reader to a village on a Greek island where a Greek-American FBI agent arrives to investigate a series of mysterious fires. Released in 2020, this romantic thriller does not shy away from contemporary issues facing Greece and the Greek islands in particular while also referencing the so-called population exchange that followed the Asia Minor Catastrophe a century ago.
As Smith told The National Herald via email: “In Fire on the Island, an arsonist threatens to burn down a Greek village by blowing up a fuel tank in its harbor. Alarmed by the possible disruption of the Coast Guard’s vital role in rescuing refugees, the FBI agent posted to Athens arrives to investigate. He discovers a village rife with conflicts, some dating back to the population exchange, and any of which might compel someone to exact vengeance on the whole village.”
Smith brings the village to life with a strong cast of characters you might meet in any village in Greece, but the attention to detail makes each one unique, adding a depth that will keep readers turning the pages to discover which one is the arsonist and which one’s romance will flourish. The memorable characters include Greek-American FBI agent Nick Damigos, Lydia, the restaurant owner whose parents’ house was the target of the most recent fire, the young bartender Takis who works at his sister Vassoula’s bar, the village priest who is also an art forger, and Ridi, the young Albanian waiter who harbors a secret.
Smith’s characters share their struggles- financial, romantic, emotional, etc.- with an authenticity that draws the reader in and holds their interest to the very last page. The touches of wit lighten what could have been a very dark thriller while the details relating to Greek island life also highlight the author’s familiarity with his setting. He told TNH that he has “a long history in Greece” and has “spent about 7 years total there.”
As noted in his biography: “Raised crisscrossing America pulling a small green trailer behind the family car, Timothy Jay Smith developed a ceaseless wanderlust that has taken him around the world many times. En route, he’s found the characters that people his work. Polish cops and Greek fishermen, mercenaries and arms dealers, child prostitutes and wannabe terrorists, Indian Chiefs and Indian tailors: he’s hung with them all in an unparalleled international career that saw him smuggle banned plays from behind the Iron Curtain, maneuver through Occupied Territories, represent the U.S. at the highest levels of foreign governments, and stowaway aboard a ‘devil’s barge’ for a three-day crossing from Cape Verde that landed him in an African jail.”
Smith has won top honors for his novels, screenplays and stage plays in numerous prestigious competitions. Fire on the Island won the Gold Medal in the 2017 Faulkner-Wisdom Competition for the Novel, and his screenplay adaptation of it was named Best Indie Script by WriteMovies.
Fire on the Island by Timothy Jay Smith is available online.