Author: Zygmunt Miloszewski
Pub Date: PL July 2007 | UK August 2010
My Rating: ★★★★★
Sunday, 5th June 2005
The revived Jarocin festival is a big success, with ten thousand people listening to rock bands Dżem, Armia and TSA. The JP2 generation takes place in the annual prayer meeting at Lednica. Zbigniew Religa, cardiac surgeon and politician, has announced that he will run for President and that he wants to be “candidate for national reconciliation”. At the tenth anniversary “Aviation Picnic” air show held in Góraszka, two F-16 fighters are on display, prompting an enthusiastic response from the crowd. In Baku the Polish team trash Azerbaijan 3-0, despite a poor display, and the Azerbaijani trainer beats up the referee. In Warsaw, police distribute grisly photos of car-crash victims to drivers as a warning. In the suburb of Mokotów a number 112 bus catches fire, and on Kinowa Street an ambulance overturns while carrying a liver for transplant. The driver, a nurse and a doctor are taken to hospital with bruising, the liver is unharmed and is transplanted that same day into a patient at the hospital on Stefana Banacha Street. Maximum temperature in the capital – twenty degrees, with showers.
It is the day and state of Warsaw, Poland when a man is found dead with a roasting spit stuck in one eye. He is discovered by one of fellow therapy group members. The case is taken by prosecutor Teodor Szacki. You wouldn’t suspect how twisted the case will be, and how far in the history of both Poland and the deceased, Szacki will have to go to find out the truth. The story is deeply rooted in Warsaw; each chapter starts with a short intro on what is happening in Warsaw, Poland and world like the one I quoted above. The crime is also strongly related to Communist times in Poland. But those are not things that will prevent you from enjoying this great mystery, they are exceptional and add a lot to a story when you understand them, but still, I believe that the story is as solid without them.
Teodor Szacki is a thirty-six-year-old, prematurely turned gray husband and father of an eight-year-old girl. He always wears suits and has to deal with police officers and other people making fun of him because of that. But he is just trying to present best he can because after all he is a public prosecutor, he’s works matters. Besides running the baffling case, he struggles with his personal issues; he considers cheating on his wife with a young journalist that came to his office one day. The author is not leaving anything behind when it comes to Szacki’s thoughts – we know when he is turned on, and we know when he decides to ‘deal with it’ in a public library toilet. He is never presented as an ingenious prosecutor/detective that singlehandedly figures out the whole case. He is not a superman; he is just good at his work, and he cares. He is very human, and you just cannot dislike him.
The case is very twisted, but after all, it is a good old type mystery story – the guilty is the one that you at one point suspected, but then the whole story makes doubt your suspicions. First, four suspects are people that were with Henryk Telak the night before he was murdered. Two women and one man that were taking part in the very unusual therapy sessions that built up tensions and emotions high between four patients, who didn’t know each other just two days before the murder. And there is the fourth suspect – the therapist. The one that knows most about the human mind, and who probably is the best suited to deceive the police officer and prosecutor, hiding emotions and reactions to questions behind a professional face. The group of suspects is going beyond the initial group as Szacki is finding more and more information.
The characters in the book are very ‘juicy’ – they are not one-dimensional support characters. They are all different and exciting. There is a police officer that works in close cooperation with Szacki that is unafraid of saying things just as he thinks them and is fond of lewd remarks. The flirtatious journalist that is described almost like some Bond girl, very strange psychotherapist, paranoid historians, ex-policeman drunk. All the characters are not just supporting the main one; they are full characters on their own.
It is probably a book that you never hear of; it was published in English by an independent London-based publisher – Bitter Lemon Press. But that doesn’t mean that this is not a book that you should read! If you enjoy a good crime story, this is the one to choose. Besides Polish awards, this book was recognized in France by ELLE magazine (Grand prix des lectrices de Elle) and at crime fiction festival Quais du Polar.
** The featured image is a top part of a Polish edition cover; it shows a Warsaw as Teodor Szacki could see it from the district he lived in. It illustrates the downtown of Warsaw and Vistula river.
The post was spell checked using Grammarly. Thanks to it I avoided publishing a post with 52 critical issues, and 21 advanced grammar issues. – It is a record I think; my spelling is so bad!