Fire on the Island
Fire on the Island is a gripping romantic thriller by Timothy Jay Smith set in a fictionalised version of the town of Molyvos on the island of Lesbos.
Vourvoulos is the fictional village where the novel Fire on the Island is set, named after a village on Santorini where the author Timothy Jay Smith lived for a few years, though he has revealed that his inspiration for the setting was actually Molyvos on Lesbos. He simply borrowed the name of Vourvoulos. Anyone who has been to the beautiful town of Molyvos will recognise elements of it in the book, though Vourvoulos seems to be a much smaller version.
Wherever the location, this well-written page-turner will appeal to anyone looking for a good read set anywhere in Greece or the Greek islands. Described as a romantic thriller, it centres on the initially mysterious figure of Nick Damigos, an FBI agent who arrives in Vourvoulos for an extended stay, ostensibly to write a book.
Fire on the Island is a fast-moving book, and by the fourth paragraph the fire theme is introduced. Although a series of fires that threatens the village is the heart of the story, there are also many allusions to fire woven into the beautifully descriptive writing, including in the hero's own background.
Anyone who has been to Greece a few times or more will recognise the locations, the characters and the events, and feel that a curtain has been lifted on what really goes on behind the scenes in the tavernas, the churches and the houses, the side of Greek life that few visitors get to know.
Author Timothy Jay Smith
It's not giving too much away to reveal - as you learn this very early on in the book - that the core of the story is the sequence of fires that have been happening around Vourvoulos, and Damigos soon realises that the fires have been getting closer and closer each time. If the culprit isn't found, and quickly, there's bound to be a fire actually in the village and lives will be lost.
The book is about much more than just the quest to find the pyromaniac, though - if indeed the person responsible is a pyromaniac, or could it be someone with other motives? The novel very much describes life on Lesbos today, with the arrival of boatloads of migrants one of the aspects of the story. One of the main characters is in fact a migrant, but an Albanian worker employed as a waiter and an endearing young man with his heart set on one of the local girls.
The Real Molyvos
The book is called a romantic thriller, but while there are several romances, it's much more a thriller. The author does a good job of creating a vivid cast of characters, and several of them make for plausible suspects - even the village priest! Your suspicions veer from one suspect to another, and then back again, as the plot cleverly works itself out. The book works because all the characters are credible, their backgrounds and behaviour believable, and the Greek island setting totally convincing. Highly recommended.
Other Greece books pages
The very thorough A-Z Guide to Santorini by Tony Oswin is now in its 15th edition, a sure sign that the guidebook is both popular and kept up-to-date.
Heaven on Earth is a collection of 19 travel pieces about Greece by Mike Gerrard.
If planning a trip to Greece, what are the best books about Greece to read before you go, or to take with you, to give you a sense of place?
A Thing of Beauty by Peter Fiennes describes ‘Travels in Mythical and Modern Greece’ and places the Greek Gods in the context of modern-day Greece.
Greece Book Reviews on the Greece Travel Secrets website with reviews of the best guidebooks to Greece, the Greek Islands, Athens, Crete and elsewhere.
Taverna by the Sea is an account by Jennifer Barclay of her summer spent working in a taverna on Karpathos and a welcome new book of Greek travel writing.
Wild Abandon by Jennifer Barclay and published by Bradt Guides is A Journey to Deserted Places of the Dodecanese islands in Greece, including Rhodes and Kos.
The Summer of My Greek Taverna by Tom Stone is a memoir of his time on the Greek island of Patmos in the Dodecanese, running a restaurant.
The Bradt Guide to Northern Greece is a detailed guide to Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Macedonia, Thrace, The Pelion, The Sporades and the rest of Northern Greece.
Greece Travel Secrets reviews the photography book Monemvasia with extracts from works by Yiannis Ritsos and Nikos Kazantzakis.
Mermaid Singing by Charmian Clift is a fine example of 1950s travel writing about the Greek island of Kalymnos in the Dodecanese.
Margarita’s Olive Press is a modern gem of a book of Greek travel writing, in which the author falls in love with and renovates a property on Zakynthos.
The Lonely Planet guide to the Greek Islands is a thorough and helpful guide to all the Greek island groups, with Athens included.
The latest edition of the Lonely Planet travel guide to Greece is a comprehensive 750-page guidebook to the whole country.
Lonely Planet Crete is an excellent and thorough guide of almost 300 pages to the largest of the Greek islands.
Ikaria by Meni Valle, brings together the best and healthiest Greek recipes with an evocative travelogue about Ikaria, one of the world’s Blue Zone places.
Peel Me a Lotus by Charmian Clift is a Hydra travel writing classic, describing her family’s life on this tiny Greek island near Athens in the 1950s.
There are many great Greek poets, with two authors winning the Nobel Prize for Literature and names include Sappho, Cavafy, George Seferis and Odysseus Elytis.
Eurydice Street, A Place in Athens by Sofka Zinovieff is an honest account of what it’s like to move to Athens and live as a foreigner, learning Greek customs.
Greece Travel Secrets reviews the book Culture Trails by Lonely Planet, which has a section on Artistic Athens and 51 other perfect weekends for culture lovers.
The Bradt Guide to the Peloponnese is the best book on the Greek region which includes attractions like Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia, Monemvasia and Nafplion.
The 2022 edition of the A-Z Travel Guide to Kos is the 15th edition of the best and most comprehensive guidebook to Kos in the Dodecanese islands of Greece.
A Rope of Vines by Brenda Chamberlain is an evocative memoir of the author’s time living on the Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s.
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