Robert Cole has a Masters degree in clinical psychology, but has worked for most of his life in the corporate business world, both in the UK and overseas. He has had a successful career in Human Resources at global companies, including Shell, Pfizer, British Gas, Expedia and Serco. H e turned to writing in 2018, with A Breeze Across The Aegean his first book. He is currently working on his second novel set amongst the picturesque towns and villages of the Languedoc area of the South of France. He has lived in Singapore, Cyprus, South Africa, the Netherlands and the UK. He feels an affinity with Greece and has travelled extensively across the country and its islands. Aside from travel, his interests include tennis and golf. He lives in Surrey, but also spends time at his apartment in Uzes, Southern France.
Synopsis of the story
Two years after the death of his wife, Nicholas takes a holiday to the Greek island of Rhodes. He intends that the break will allow him to refocus his life. While there he takes a day trip to the tiny island of Halki. On the ferry he meets Alessandra - who plans to meet up with an old friend on Halki. She is an archaeological researcher at the museum on Rhodes. They talk, establish a strong chemistry and agree to meet up for the return journey later that day. Alessandra also offers to show Nicholas around the Old Town the following week.
She fails to make both the ferry return and their planned meeting at the museum. A puzzled and disappointed Nicholas returns to his life in the UK. A few months later he learns of Alessandra's disappearance on Rhodes. Local police report that they have no leads and are downgrading the investigation to that of a Missing Persons' case. He realises he was one of the last to have seen her and, after speaking to her parents in England, makes the decision to try to help find her. This decision is to shape and change his life in many ways.
His search takes him back to Rhodes, Halki and, finally, Symi. Nicholas discovers that Alessandra's disappearance may be linked to her passion for antiquities and that she was seeking to discover what happened to the most famous of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Colossus of Rhodes. Assisted by one of her friends, Effie, he traces the progress of Alessandra's investigation. On Halki he learns of the ferocious storms, called Meltemi, that are feared by sailors and which appear, seemingly from nowhere, in this corner of the Mediterranean.
Nicholas also finds out about Alessandra's turbulent former relationship with Andriy, a Russian academic who has an interest in the ancient trade routes in the Eastern Mediterranean and a ruthless businessman. His discovery leads him into the dangerous but highly profitable world of the criminal trade in looted antiquities. He is threatened twice and Effie is injured in a hit-and-run accident. During his journey Nicholas also embarks on a personal voyage of self-discovery.
The novel contrasts the picture-postcard experience of the holiday visitor to these beautiful islands, with a murky and darker reality of the organised looting and distribution of ancient cultural artifacts. Nicholas discovers that Alessandra has been kidnapped by a Mafia-style Russian criminal cartel, a major player in the criminal activity, run by Andriy. He traces the missing woman to a remote farmhouse on a small Greek island and sets out to rescue her.
The novel also charts Alessandra's own experience from her kidnapping on Halki to her removal to Symi, and her subsequent lengthy imprisonment. During this period brutal attempts are made to destroy her resolve and force her to show her captors where the ancient artifact lies by taking her on dives in dangerous waters around the island. Alessandra feels progressively that her strength and life are ebbing away.
Nicholas locates her but is captured and imprisoned with a weakened Alessandra. When they are rescued amid a shoot-out at the remote farmhouse, Nicholas pursues the fleeing Andriy and in a cliff-top struggle, both fall from the rocks. Nicholas is injured and Andriy dies.
The novel concludes with Alessandra and Nicholas hiring a boat to take them to an uninhabited island where Alessandra shows Nicholas what she had discovered. They both decide to leave the treasure where it has lain undisturbed for over a millennium. As they leave the temperature falls and the wind increases. Behind them dark sinister clouds swirl over the eerie mountainous outline of distant Halki signifying the start of a Meltemi storm.