Second novel in Steinhauer's series about murder cops in a fictional Eastern Europe country. The last novel focused on young cop Emil. This is seven years later and Emil is a side character to Ferenc. Ferenc is older, married, with a young teen daughter. Ferenc is a very big fella and only sometimes uses that imposing size to his advantage when speaking to people. Ferenc was a feted novelist a few years ago and make the drinking rounds of the artistic community. Ferenc still drinks it up on occassion but now has in a troubled marriage and suspects his wife of infidelity.
Daily life in Unnamed Country is not so bad for the cops. They have cars. They don't have an overbearing boss. They have enough to eat. But, every one is subject to a forced vacation to a labor camp with a boot in the face - forever. Basically, things are not so bad after the war. Sure, everyone suffered during the war, and Ferenc killed plenty of people, yet things are slowly building back. One problem is that the country is ultimately under control of the Russkies. What's more the citizens are in danger of being swept up in purges both before and after the silent coups.
Anyhoo. Ferenc starts investigating a couple murders involving the art community and comes across one of those unfortunate victims of state violence. Ferenc runs into: A dangerous Russian political officer. A Frenchman. A few artists. A few women. And several instances of betrayal.
Steinhaurer has some interesting things to say about oppressive governments but the plot is more about family, loyalty, and revenge.
- Ferenc can't quite figure out what has happened to his marriage. He ends up moving out and sleeping with other women but still wants his wife back.
- The murder investigations show ties to Russian soldiers who occupied the country after the war and then raped and kills some teenage girls. The police investigator at the time stayed loyal to his community and the law. The Russkies stayed loyal to Russkies and killed the investigator.
- The murder investigation shows the killer may be out for revenge after a betrayal sent him to prison. The betrayers sent him to prison and then claimed his paintings as their own and went on to acclaim and money.
- Emil thinks that he should maybe leave his wife because that would be better for her.
1. Gratuitous Eastern European car brands.
2. An interesting novel but I enjoyed Steinhauer's other spy/assassin novels more.
3. Alan Furst is still my benchmark for post-WWII Eastern Europe espionage.