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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Lord of the Dark Lake by Ron Faust

May 1, 2017

Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.: New York City
1996 (HC)

Jay Chandler may be the luckiest man alive.  Trained as a Meso-American archaeologist, he has not only been invited to reconstruct the ruins of a temple dedicated to Poseidon on an idyllic island in the Aegean Sea, but he has been absorbed into the family circle of Alexander Krisos, an eccentric Greek billionaire.  Jay’s good fortune began when he and Krisos’ son Konstantin became roommates and then best friends while attending Stanford University.

Alexander Krisos, lord and master of his Aegean island, is a complex and contradictory personality.  His personal wealth is almost beyond comprehension, yet he will periodically “go walkabout” and sign on as a deckhand on a tramp freighter or work the docks of Anatolia or cook in  a Detroit Greek restaurant—all because he believed the lifestyle of the wealthy inevitably led to weakness and intellectual impotence.  At the same time he shows a softer side as he dotes on his son Konstantin—his heir-in-waiting—and younger son Nicolas, wheelchair-bound after being shot in a kidnap attempt gone awry, and his lovely, headstrong and sensual daughter Maria.

The tale unfolds as guests from around the globe begin to descend on the island for one of Alexander’s famous, or perhaps infamous, week-long bacchanalias.  Along with the usual glittering list of celebrities—an internationally renowned sex film star, a boorish Texas oilman, a deposed African warlord, a Japanese entrepreneur, an unredeemed veteran of the Nazi SS, an Arab prince, an English playwright and many other charter members of the globally rich, famous and powerful—Alexander has hired a varied crew of entertainers to keep his jaded guests from boredom—among them actors, a ventriloquist and his dwarf “dummy,” Spanish toreadors (and imported bulls), and others.  All of this is by way of introducing Alexander’s trophy bride-to-be and her father to his family and assembled guests.

The revelry begins to fade as first, the body of a likely paparazzi invading the island is discovered—gored by one of the bulls imported for the bullfighting entertainment—followed by the brutal murder of a sybaritic classicist brought to Alexander’s palatial villa to certify the authenticity of an ancient papyrus purchased by the tycoon.

Jay’s idyllic world begins to crumble as he learns that his archaeological project is a sham—that Alexander brought the ruins to the island from another location. He is, in effect, something of a family pet.  Further, his idyllic view of the Family Krisos is also shattered as a mash-up play based on Oedipus the King, with Krisos family members thinly disguised as Oedipus, Jocasta, Antigone and other members of the House of Atreus,  is orchestrated by Alexander, and presented to the assembled guests for all to witness the fissures and fault lines within the family.

The drama and agony continue unabated as the Krisos family, along with Jay and a few remaining guests, are seduced into replicating Theseus’ hunt of the Minotaur in the caves and caverns that honeycombed the depths of the island—only to be trapped by an earthquake-induced cave-in.

Lord of the Dark Lake is a cleverly constructed and taut reimagining of several motifs found in Greek mythology and tragedy—narcissism, agon (struggle) and hubris chief among them.

Three trowels for this modern take on the tradition of Greek tragedy.