“Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller” by Timothy Jay Smith— Intrigue, Romance and Travel

Smith, Timothy Jay. “Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller”, Arcade Crimewise, 2020.

Intrigue, Romance and Travel

Amos Lassen

There are not many books that I read in one sitting. Timothy Jay Smith’s “Fire on the Island” had me riveted and turning pages as fast as I could. It is a romantic thriller set in contemporary Greece, with a gay Greek-American FBI agent, who goes undercover on the island to investigate a series of mysterious fires. The novel is set against a real refugee crisis in the beautiful, sun-drenched Greek islands as we read of Molyvos on the island of Santorini where  a community is in crisis. As the residents of island residents struggle with declining tourism, poverty, refugees, family feuds, and a damaged church, an arsonist comes in and tries to destroy everything. 

Nick Damigos is the FBI agent who arrives on the island to witness the latest fire and save a dog. He is hailed as a hero and embraced by the community. Nick is soon drawn to Takis, a young bartender who becomes his primary suspect and this is a problem since they’re having an affair. But this is not the only complicated romance in the community and Takis isn’t the only suspicious character on the island. There is the priest who is an art forger, a young Albanian waiter with a secret, the captain of the coast guard station who has his own agenda, and the village itself is hiding something. Nick has to find the truth in order to prevent a catastrophe and he is dealing with his own past trauma. To save the village is to save himself as well.

Damigos has come to the Greek Island, seeking serenity so that he can focus on writing his book, or so he says. The village has seen many other “writers” come and go over the years and the young men and women who live there are filled with plots and characters. But Damigos, really isn’t a writer; he’s a special undercover FBI agent.

There have been a series of seemingly random fires on the island and there have been no clues to the identity of the arsonist. It is obviously someone with a grudge who seems out of place there. Whoever it is has a mind so twisted by animosity and bitterness the feelings of animosity are very deep. 

The primary suspect though is Takis, who has become Damigos’s lover, much to the dislike of Takis’s voluptuous sister Vassoula, who wants Nick for herself. Everyone has secrets, and everyone has a past, and as Nick discovers what people don’t want known, he starts to narrow his list of suspects.

Integral to the plot is the refugee crisis in Greece that continues today. Desperate people see Greece as the entry point into the rest of Europe. With over 50,000 refugees in Greece presently the strain on the economy is troublesome. We see how it affects this small village as Greece is faced with a crisis of how to absorb these people into their economy when Greeks, themselves, find it so difficult to find jobs and sustain their own families. This gives additional stress to our which village is already under siege from an arsonist. 

Author Smith also writes about the implications of being gay in a small town. We sense the rabid homophobia on the island as it tries to  drive away those who are sexually different. The novel is filled with the overtones of the current affairs, sexual politics, and the historical catastrophes that exist on the island. Smith writes beautiful descriptions and we feel that we are on the island.   The ending is intriguing but I must admit that it took a bit before the entire story came together but when it does, it is amazing.

2 thoughts on ““Fire on the Island: A Romantic Thriller” by Timothy Jay Smith— Intrigue, Romance and Travel

  1. Timothy Jay Smith

    I very much appreciate this incredible review, and will share it far and wide — and certainly in Greece! But one correction: it is set on the island of Lesvos, not Santorini. Unfortunately, Publishers Weekly made that mistake, and others have taken it as fact. The explanation for the mistake, I think, is easy. I never name the island in the book, and I call the village where it is set Vourvoulos (It’s really the village of Molyvos). There is a village called Vourvoulos on Santorini (I lived there 1990-1992), and someone probably googled Vourvoulos and thought, “Aha! It’s Santorini!”. Fire on the Island is my homage to Greece, where cumulatively I’ve spent some 7 years of my life, and I named the village Vourvoulos out of love for the original Vourvoulos.

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