The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond
The Golden Orphans is a mystery set on Cyprus. It opens with the funeral of Francis Benthem. The one mourner is an English artist, former student and friend of the deceased.
Illy Prostakov has a recurring dream that he wants painting. He generously offers to pay off all the artist’s current debts if he’ll stay and paint, but can this Russian be trusted?
The artist makes enquiries, locally, about Prostakov, but no one has anything positive to say. He learns a little about the recent history of Cyprus, including the Turkish invasion in 1974 which split the island. And he hears the story of The Golden Orphans, babies left parentless on the night of the invasion, who grew up as heroic symbols of survival for the people. There’s a tenuous link; Prostakov is searching for a lost treasure linked to his dream. We discover that he worked in Cyprus before the invasion, but what is he really trying to find?
In an unusual choice we are never told the name of our narrator/artist, but it actually doesn’t matter. The author’s descriptions and writing style allow the reader to created their own pictures without the need of a name. I could easily imagine the summer heat and the various settings. There’s also an underlying theme of lost souls, with many either escaping from life, or searching for something unknown.
In conclusion, this is more of a mystery than a thriller. I’ve never been to Cyprus, but the local history was interesting. And if you do know the island, it will have even more meaning as you read the story.
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Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…