The Unspeakable Acts of Zina Pavlou

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Pub Date Nov 09 2023 | Archive Date Nov 16 2023
Aria & Aries | Head of Zeus -- an Aries Book

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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 Sara Collins, Eve Chase and Jessie Burton.


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...


'An absolute page-turner.' Louise Hare

'Immersive, gripping, authentic.' Erin Kelly

‘Hugely powerful... Easily one of the best books you’ll read this year.’ Emma Christie

‘Chilling, gripping and a story that stayed with me long after I’d finished the book.’ Nikki Smith


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...

Advance Praise

'Incredible. Based on a true crime, this is a brilliantly crafted story of two women... So evocative of 1950s London and an absolute page-turner.' Louise Hare

'A gripping true-crime drama... Kyriacou’s complex, perceptive and moving narrative brings these devastating events vividly to life.' Philippa East, author of Little White Lies

'Eleni Kyriacou is a writer of immense talent and she handles this complex, passionate subject matter with stunning results. A captivating and important story written by an author at the top of her game.' Victoria Dowd, author of The Smart Woman's Guide to Murder

'Storytelling of the highest order, and a fascinating re-imagining of a real-life case from the 1950s. A really powerful novel.' Leonora Nattrass, author of Black Drop

'An absorbing tale of race and class, discrimination and prejudice… It will be a long time before I can get Zina Pavlou out of my head.' Sam Baker, author of The Shift

'A propulsive and fascinating story that hooked me from the very first page. Kyriacou’s writing is confident and assured. I loved it.' Nicola Gill, author of The Neighbours

'Incredible. Based on a true crime, this is a brilliantly crafted story of two women... So evocative of 1950s London and an absolute page-turner.' Louise Hare

'A gripping true-crime drama...

Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9781837930340
PRICE £14.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 80 members

Featured Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley, Eleni Kyriacou and Aria & Aries for a chance to read this arc.

The unspeakable acts of Zina Pavlou takes place in 1950’s London, based on a true crime story it follows the main character Zina as she is accused of a horrific crime.

Eleni’s writing produces wonderful, unforgettable characters and places. She touches on issues such as class divide, wealth and culture beautifully. The story keeps you questioning if Zina is really capable of what she’s been accused.

I couldn’t put it down - I had to finish it. 5 stars.

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Taking place in 1950's London, Zina is accused of a horrific murder she is adamant she didn't commit and she needs the help of Eva to translate and find the truth of what really happened.

Firstly this was written in such an addictive way you can't put it down and this is also based on the true crime story with some dramatization which makes this even more interesting to me. I also love that this touches on racism, cultural differences, class divide and more. With dual timelines, this keeps you guessing if Zina is really capable of murder.

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Zina Pavlou, a Cypriot grandmother staying with her son and his family in 1950’s London, is accused of brutally murdering her daughter-in-law. Barely speaking English and confused by the fact her family appear to have abandoned her in her hour of need, Zina has no-one to turn to – except her police-assigned interpreter, Eva Georgiou.

As Eva feels the weight of responsibility for Zina falling on her shoulders, she is herself battling with the loss of a baby and the widening gap in her marriage. Does she believe Zina’s protestations that she is innocent of this unspeakable act? And if so, can she help Zina, when no-one else seems willing to?

The Unspeakable Acts of Zina Pavlou is a particularly strong novel, not just in the tight plotting and narrative, but on a bigger scale in the way it deals with the powerlessness of women against a male dominated social and economic landscape. Zina’s plight is compounded by the fact that she is not just as a woman; she is a foreigner of low social class and disadvantaged by her inability to speak or write English. We see how society, the media, and the judicial system are influenced by the fact that Zina is ‘not one of us’.

It's a deliciously crafted novel with a deft lightness of touch, yet it’s unafraid to delve into those bigger questions about racial prejudice, women’s rights, and social inequality. All this could come across as heavy going, but in fact, the novel succeeds in bringing all of these points sharply into mental focus, but without deviating from the engaging plot. So, it’s a wholly enjoyable read, with plenty of depth.

This is a recommended read from me – and I’ll certainly be checking out Eleni’s other work.

Thanks to #NetGalley for the advance copy!

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Many thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy in return for an honest review. I really enjoyed this story of Zina and Eva. The plot is very well teased out and kept me guessing until the end. The book evokes 1950's London, the fog, the racist attitudes and the court/prison system and how Zina is treated. There are themes also about the harshness of poverty especially for women in Cyprus and the role religion plays. I also liked the length of the book. It wasn't overly long. The script was concise and the plot moved along at a nice pace. I will definitely look out for other work by this author.

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•It is inspired by a true case and it’s brilliantly written. It’s twisted and it will keep you at edge. You will try to solve it but you will find yourself entangled in mystery, hidden truth and process of jurisdiction. It was such an emotional read and a gripping historical crime novel. Where the line becomes blur between fiction and facts.

•The author has splattered light upon gender inequality, class, discrimination, prejudice, different cultures and women’s right.

• I like the setting of 1950s London and odyssey of a Cypriot woman. And Eva’s role as a translator and delving in the mystery of Zina Pavlou and bringing up the issue of gender inequality.

Thank you Netgalley, Author and Publisher for giving me an opportunity to read this book and trusting me.

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It took me some time to read this book as I was traveling, but every time I picked it up, I was immediately transported to 1950s London. The main character, Zina Pavlou, is from Greece and has come to England to visit her son and his wife. However, things take a dark turn when Zina's daughter-in-law is found dead and Zina is charged with murder. My mind raced with questions – did she actually commit the crime, or was someone else involved? I had a few theories and became a detective myself. I sympathized deeply with Zina, as did her translator who also worked to solve the case.

What shocked me was that at the time, the law in England mandated execution by hanging for those found guilty of murder. This added an extra layer of tension to the story. What's more, this book is based on a true story, and the author, Eleni Kyriacou, did a fantastic job of adding a few extra twists to make it even more intense.

The ending of the book left me speechless as everything came to light, and it all made sense. This is a brilliant book! I want to thank the author, publisher, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it kept me up at night.

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I really enjoyed reading this book. I was absolutely addicted to it. The way it is written is sooo good. The way you believe the character is really good. You actually feel sorry for her and then bam!! The fact that this actually happened and it's about a real person was a bit jaw drop.

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Wow just finished reading this book. Not for a long time have I been fully engrossed as I was with this. It really sets the science in London in the 1950s of a Cyprit peasant lady who comes to visit her son only to find that he has married and is besotted with his wife. Tensions rise throughout her stay and then things come to a head with dire consequences

Could she really have done it? Based on a true story the pages unfold to give you an addictive read, with sorrow, joy and a lot of questions to be asked. Have we really learned anything today from this?

Blockbuster of a book, compelling reading. I now have a new author to follow.

Thank you for giving me the chance to read this pre-publication release.

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i received a digital ARC copy of #theunspeakableactsofZinaPavlou by @EleniKyriacou, from #NetGalley, #headofzeus, #ariafiction and #ariesfictionbooks, in return for an honest review,

Recently I've been lucky enough to have read some unputdownable books, and I am adding this book to that list.

A fictional work of a true story. Zina Pavlou is accused of a brutal murder, but did she do it? London 1954, a 53year old illiterate Greek woman who speaks no English, has to rely on an interpreter to prove her innocence. In a male dominated world, will Zina be given the chance to a fair trial?

You need to read this book. It is so well written. It is gripping and tense. The characters draw you in, and you can't put it down because you MUST know what is written on the next page!

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This was a really interesting novel, particularly given that it was based on real events which the author refers to at the end of the novel.

In this story, we meet Eva - a waitress who also works as a part time Greek translator for the Police/Courts. Late one night, she is brought into the Police station to interpret for Zina Pavlou who has been arrested for the horrific murder of her daughter-in-law.

Through multiple timelines, we are taken to a year prior to the murder as well as dipping into Zina's life in Cyprus as well as, of course, the present day as Zina awaits her trial for murder. Despite multiple warnings, Eva becomes personally attached to Zina, who has, understandably, been shunned by her son and has no-one to look out for her.

Chapter by chapter we are drip fed the back story as to what actually happened on that fateful night and the outcome of Zina's trial.

A thoroughly enthralling read which I would definitely recommend

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Brilliant storytelling. I was hooked from the start and taken on an emotional rollercoaster.
Set in 1950's London, Zina Pavlou arrives from a small rural village in Cyprus ,to stay with her son and his German wife in their rented flat. The two women do not get on and when Hedy is found dead, Zina is arrested. An interpreter is called, as Zina does not speak English, nor can she read or write in her own language.. The attitudes and prejudices of that era are clear.
As the story unfolds we see the interaction between Zina and Eva, the interpreter. I loved Eva. She was caring and the case really affected her.
An absorbing story. I couldn't put it down.

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had this on my tbr for a while and idk why it took me so long to get around to it. this was such an interesting novel and i had no idea what direction this was gonna go in. i can see this one being super popular. beautifully written and i loved the ending!

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London in the 1950s is brilliantly evoked and the ambivalent go-between role of Eva works so well as.a way to tease out the story of Zina – and how her case and situation reflected attitudes at the time. The end notes are a really satisfying way to round off the book, explaining how fact and fiction have been woven together into this moving story.

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This was a really thoughtful fictional retelling of a true story about a gruesome murder in the 1950's. The author's portrayal of London and the lives of Greek Cypriot immigrants was well told and the topic of otherness and poor language skills remain a contemporary issue.
I found using the viewpoint of an interpreter a good one to highlight
points, although at times it felt Eva should have had a book of her own and maybe slightly detracted from Zina's story.
Thank you to netgalley and Head of Zeus for an advance copy of this book

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An amazing read. A sympathetic novel based on the life and death of the penultimate w9man to be hanged in the uk and of her translator. The main character is an illiterate Cypriot woman who killed her daughter in law under duress caused by mental illness. Today, she would have been treated wit( much more sympathy, but after a difficult abused life, she blurred the boundaries of fantasy and reality. The translator was amazing. Sympathetic, understanding yet realistic.

This must have been such a difficult book to write, but the story should be told. The establishment was guilty of looking down on her lack of education and the fact she was foreign. There was no justice here. Law should be colourblind but this was clearly not the case.

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