When last seen in Petrakis's earlier novel, "A Dream of Kings," Leonidas Matsoukas was the vigorous proponent of wildly creative get-rich-quick schemes; a passionately loving husband, father, and sometime philanderer; an incorrigible gambler; a mighty fighter; and purveyor of advice and counseling on matters of life and of the soul. Now, eight years later, he returns from Greece to the Greek- American Chicago neighborhood where he had lived with his family. But all has changed: his young son has died in Greece; Matsoukas himself has just been released from a long period of imprisonment and torture; his daughters are grown and his wife Caliope has remarried to a prominent businessman.
Battered in body but not in spirit, Matsoukas slowly begins to recover his place. He befriends and helps a young, lonely single mother, Debbie, and her infant son, Peter. Then he contacts Caliope, and finds an unexpected patron in her generous husband Sophocles. Soon Matsoukas is nearly himself again, but for two dilemmas: his love for Caliope, now another man's wife, and the presence of the man who tortured him in Greece — a man who found respectable anonymity in Chicago.
A wounded lion, a battered Jeremiah, limping Leonidas Matsoukas is not quite the lustful, Zorba-like hero last encountered in Petrakis's 1966 novel, A Dream of Kings . At the start of this heartbreaking new saga, Matsoukas, after burying his son in Greece and enduring five years of torture in a Greek prison, returns to Chicago to find his old neighborhood gone. His wife, Caliopeok , who assumed him dead, has remarried a Greek-American real estate magnate. Still deeply in love with her, Matsoukas takes solace in a fatherly relationship with a young single mother. But when the old swashbuckler discovers that the jailer who tortured him is now living in Chicago, exacting vengeance becomes his consuming passion. Despite some excesses, including grandiloquent dialogue and overt comparisons between the protagonist and Anthony Quinn, this moving, darkly lyrical, even noble story rises in moments of dramatic intensity to a neat double-surprise ending.