The narrative is set in Cyprus; the main characters being, Aristo, an archaeologist who has turned his Paphos home into a small private museum, and his teenage son, Pavlos, who now live alone together.
Aristo's obsessive need to trace and belong to his family - even though he is told they were all burnt and left unidentifiable in the Turkish invasion of the island - has estranged his English wife, and is gradually distancing his only child, while in turn, Pavlos has an increasing need to belong to a father who will make time for him.
As the practices and those assembled at Aristo's late-night museum 'staff meetings' unfold themselves to Pavlos, the boy is led deeper into a sinister confrontation with ancient and unquiet souls.
The author, part Greek Cypriot, was raised amongst Greeks in England and has travelled extensively through Cyprus. He has particular admiration for the village people whose company he has enjoyed so much in the Troodos Mountains.
A moving but uplifting story of a broken Anglo-Greek family in Cyprus -
Aristo's 'family' is furtive, creepy, occupying isolated dwellings in the Troodos mountains at night, uncannily out of tune with contemporary life - in fact, behaving just a bit too much like ancients in a modern world for comfort, as Aristo's only teenage son, Pavlos, gradually comes to realise, the family are not just shadowy but only too sinister.
When Aristo is regressed in hypnosis he unexpectedly begins to reveal to Pavlos uncanny knowledge of ancient Greek individuals whose personalities still seem, in part, to inhabit the family he believes is his, living up in the Troodos mountains. The family, as he calls the group, want to make Pavlos 'clean', after Aristo had discovered his boy taking much more than verbal comfort from the middle-aged and charming Katherine, an archaeologist colleague of Aristo's.
At times, I did I have to take the threat of the cleansing ritual and the ancient misuse of the scythe with a pinch of salt but there was no obvious striving after sensation and shock and, through all the looming menace, Pavlos wants only to trust that his father is not leading him to a family which will harm him but that, after all, his Dad is only trying to get closer to him.
On the whole, when the scythe was not looming round the corner, a moving story always was.
The opening chapters offered no Big Bang sensation and yet I was hooked early, partly by the dry humour in which the author dips Mr Spiropoulos, the education inspector and some of the Cypriot villagers, and partly because of the feeling that, like the teenage Pavlos who is hypnotised by his father, Aristo, I felt I myself was gradually sinking alongside the character into the trances, which Aristo excuses as the 'Greek lessons' for his boy.Through hypnotism, Aristo wants to convince his son there is a wider family, even though the authorities say his family were burnt beyond recognition when the Turks invaded Cyprus. The strangeness of the act made me read on to find out whether Aristo was really as unloving as the sessions would suggest or whether he was just a desperately lonely man. In turn, Pavlos craves to be closer to his Dad but when the weird family take on an ancient connection up in the deserted Troodos mountains at night, I feared for the son and wondered whether father or son would draw closer or still further apart.Pavlos turns to the mature, Katherine, another colleague of his father's and into whose charms he ultimately sinks but to what 'kind' of 'family' Aristo is leading him, kept me on board.