Wednesday 15 November 2023

The Unspeakable Acts of Zina Pavlou by Eleni Kyriacou #UnspeakableActsof ZinaP @EleniKWriter @AriesFiction #BookReview


London, 1954. Zina Pavlou, a Cypriot grandmother, waits quietly in the custody of the Metropolitan police. She can't speak their language, but she understands what their wary looks mean: she has been accused of the brutal murder of her daughter-in-law.

Eva Georgiou, Greek interpreter for the Met, knows how it feels to be voiceless as an immigrant woman. While she works as Zina's translator, her obsession with the case deepens, and so too does her bond with the accused murderer.

Zina can't speak for herself. She can't clear her own name. All she can do is wait for the world to decide...


A compelling historical crime novel set in the Greek diaspora of 1950s London - that's inspired by a true story - The Unspeakable Acts of Zina Pavlou is perfect for fans of Erin Kelly, Sara Collins, and Jessie Burton.

The Unspeakable Acts of Zina Pavlou by Eleni Kyriacou was published in hardback by Head of Zeus/Aries on 09 November 2023. The paperback version will be released in April 2024. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I read Eleni Kyriacou's first novel; She Came To Stay whilst I was in Cyprus last year. I loved it. I was lucky enough to go back to Cyprus a couple of weeks ago and knew that this one would be the perfect read for my holiday. Once again, Kyriacou takes her own cultural heritage, being British/Cypriot, and a born and bred Londoner and has created an outstanding novel which is also inspired by the true story of Syllou Christofi.

It's 1954 in London. The effects of the war are still apparent and the streets are not paved with gold. The prologue are the words of Zina Pavlou, a Cypriot women who speaks little English and is being held in a cell, charged with the murder of her daughter-in-law. 

Eva Georgiou is a young married woman who lives with her husband Jimmy in a dreary, run-down house in the back streets of London. She and Jimmy are both Cypriot and are determined to create a great life for themselves in England. Both of them work hard, Jimmy is a baker, Eva works at the Cafe de Paris, she also does some work as a Greek translator for the police. They've had their share of sorrow just recently and life is something of a struggle. When Eva is called upon to translate for Zina Pavlou, she is shocked. An older Cypriot woman, accused of murdering her German daughter in law is something that she struggles to come to terms with. 

This is a beautifully written story with an atmosphere that is crafted with style and authority. The author's cultural background shines through as she describes Zina and her standing within the community, not only as an older, foreign female in London, but she also details Zina's earlier life. 

I was utterly captivated by both Eva and Zina, never really knowing how much of what Zina says is true, sometimes suspecting her and often putting the blame on her son, and his wife. The relationship that Zina has just formed with her small grand daughter Anna is beautiful, yet Zina knows that she may never see Anna again and despairs about what will happen to her. 

This is a powerful, emotional story of a crime, and a fragmented family. With such a sense of place and time. It is another magical novel from a wonderful author. 

Eleni Kyriacou is an award-winning editor and journalist. 

Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Observer, Grazia, and Red, among others. 

She’s the daughter of Greek Cypriot immigrant parents, and her debut novel, She Came To Stay, was published in 2020. 

Her latest novel, The Unspeakable Acts of Zina Pavlou, is inspired by the true-crime story of the penultimate woman to be executed in Britain. 

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