To Look on Death No More ($13.95, 240 pp, 6×9 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-192-7) is a work of historical fiction by Leta Serafim, author of the Greek Island Mysteries, The Devil Takes Half and When the Devil’s Idle. While helping to defend an isolated Greek village from the Nazis, an Irishman meets a local girl and becomes invested in her family’s fate.
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Serafim’s Greek Islands Mystery series has received starred reviews in both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. Book 1, The Devil Takes Half, was a finalist in the mystery category of the Eric Hoffer Awards.
“A painful but engrossing story…. What saves the novel from a feeling of complete despair is O’Malley’s love for Danae and his growing love of her country. This aspect of the war was unknown to me before this book. It’s as important as the Blitz and the occupation of Paris, and Serafim makes me want to learn more.” Read more….
—Historical Novel Society
“An impressively crafted read from beginning to end and clearly establishes author Leta Serafim as an exceptionally gifted novelist. Very highly recommended for community library General Fiction collections.” Read more….
–The Midwest Book Review, Wisconsin Bookwatch
In autumn of 1943, a lone allied soldier parachutes into Greece. His stated goal: to build an airstrip for the British. Brendon O’Malley is an Irishman, and he soon discovers that fighting the Nazis is not the same as embracing the British, who have seriously misled him about his mission. Wounded during the drop, he’s set upon and robbed by a seventeen-year-old girl, Danae, and her little brother, Stefanos, who hold him captive for over six weeks, first in a cave and later in the cellar of their home in Kalavryta. A wary friendship develops between the three. Over time O’Malley’s relationship with the girl gradually deepens into love.
Slowly O’Malley earns Danae’s trust, and he stays on with her family in their house in the village. After his wounds heal, he heads up into the mountains to join the Greek soldiers, the antartes, who are suspicious of the British and slow to accept him into their ranks. O’Malley is no ordinary man, and his honesty, strength, and courage impress them and finally win the day. But disaster lies just ahead, and the Nazis, already a palpable presence in their lives, stage a savage attack on Kalavryta. Through it all, the love of this Irishman for his indomitable Greek muse cannot be extinguished.
Says the author, “I was drawn to this period in Greek history because as an American I was unaware of the suffering the Nazis inflicted on the native population and I wanted to educate myself, to explore the question of how a group of people can endure an unspeakable tragedy without losing their humanity or ability to love. Close to one out of ten Greeks died of starvation during the first year of war and yet like the men in my book they fought on, aided on occasion by soldiers like my Irishman, Brendan O’Malley, from the British Commonwealth. The Greek resistance had far reaching effects. In Crete, far example, it changed the course of the war, delaying the invasion of Russia by nearly two weeks. For the most part, the Greeks combatants were poorly armed and fought with whatever they had, pitchforks and rifles from the 19th century in some cases; and there were many bloody reprisal operations directed against them, most notably in the region where my story takes place. Their heroism was without parallel. As Winston Churchill put it, ‘Hence, in the future we will not say the Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.’ ”
Leta Serafim has visited over twenty-five islands in Greece and continues to divide her time between Boston and Greece. Click here to find her online.
Keep reading for an excerpt:
He told himself beguiling her was part of his plan; he’d lull her into complacency. As if anyone could lull this girl into anything—complacency least of all. He knew he was strong enough now to overpower her and get his rifle back, yet he held off. He welcomed their time together and on occasion would sing to her, ‘The Rose of Tralee’ and other romantic ballads. The songs brought Ireland closer and made her seem a part of it.
One night the little boy began to sing, too. “Tralee, tralee.”
“Stefanos, right?” O’Malley made it a question.
The boy smiled, nodded. “Nai, eimai o Stefanos.” Yes, I am Stefanos.
“I’m Brendan, and you’re Stefanos. And she’s ….” He gestured to where the girl was sitting.
“Danae. Einai i Danae.” She is Danae.
* * *
O’Malley continued to plead with the girl to give him his boots back. “You got to understand. I’m a soldier. ’Tis tough work, soldiering. Takes a lot out of a man. Got to be properly dressed if you’re to do it right, especially when battling Germans. Can’t be taking on the Wehrmacht in bare feet, no ma’am. Be undignified, that. Be a thing of laughter.”
A proper son of Ireland, he was a shy man, poor when it came to talking women into doing things. Oh, he’d had a few in Athens, urged on by the Australians in his unit. But they’d been sows, those women, greasy and fat, with the smell of men on their skin, cigarette smoke in their hair. Scrubbers. He’d had to wait in line for them, pay his money and take his turn. Nothing like this one, this savage beauty before him.
He looked over at her, studying her face in the yellow glow of the lantern. He was warming to her. Aye, no doubt about it. Could feel his cheeks grow hot just looking at her. So beautiful she was. Solemn. Like a Madonna in an Italian painting.
He didn’t understand it. She wasn’t even a proper girl, one you could put your arm on, soft and smelling of flowers. No, she was a dirty twig of a thing, mulish. Like one of the elements on the periodic table. Zinc, iron. Basic-like. Everything reduced to its essence. In her case, eyes. Aye, it was the eyes with her.
“You’re a fool, O’Malley,” he muttered. “A different kind of fool than you were in Cairo, but a fool just the same.”
Still, he felt something when he heard her voice, her footsteps outside the cave. A quickening, a sense of being more alive.
He shook his head. And him a soldier.