A couple of years ago, my husband turned me on to a crime series, written by a Polish author, that takes place before and during WWII in his hometown of Breslau (Wroclaw after German occupation). I got my hands on the one and only installment translated to English called "Death in Breslau" via library loan. It was a very dark little gem featuring a tormented protagonist (the best kind). I became frustrated at the fact that the series was not being translated in order (Jo Nesbo-style) and that they were taking their sweet old time translating as well.
While I was visiting Poland this summer, I found a large Borders-type book store called "Empik" in the city square and found that they had two more Krajewski titles in English...and they were 20% off! My mother-in-law bought them for me for my birthday, and I could not have been happier. I read this one on the way back home. My kids were HORRIFIED that there was a naked woman on the cover and demanded I cover it up. (Note: These books are available on Amazon. I was just happy to save on shipping.)
Synopsis: On his deathbed, protagonist and tortured soul Eberhard Mock asks for an old friend to visit him, so that he may confess his burdens and die in peace. A recounting of his sins takes us on a trip back through time to when Mock was a young but already accomplished detective in 1927 Breslau. "I told you about my first wife, Sophie, remember? This is going to be about her..."
Mock has been assigned a particularly set of grisly murders, all replicating specific crimes that occurred hundreds of years ago...one sealed alive behind a brick wall, another quartered, another hung upside-down and stabbed. All clues seem to point to a sect predicting the end of the world. But this is only the backdrop for Mock's more insidious troubles...his wife and his marriage. Troubles that lead him into an underworld of perversion and vices that very well may be his undoing.
My thoughts: Eberhard Mock is one messed up anti-hero. I can't even decide if I like him or not. He has a temper, he is abusive, he is an alcoholic, he is suicidal, he has no morals. But he is clever and is driven to solve his cases. It is no surprise that he can't stay married and am glad he has not been able to have a child, despite the fact that he wants offspring in the worst way. He is one big living, breathing raw wound that is painful to be near, even on the written page. I shake my head in amazement at Krajewski...he is pushing his readers to the very edge of tolerance, but gives them just enough to keep coming back. Gutsy.
The pacing is tight and packaged in a little bundle of less than 300 pages. There were a number of times when I had no earthly clue what was going on - the storyline was complicated and sometimes confusing. I don't know if that was attributable to the translation or the plot itself. But I kept forging ahead and it worked itself out eventually.
I can't conclude this review without mentioning the very glaringly bizarre book cover. The Polish version of these books are muted black and white photos of historical Breslau. But the English covers are these surreal illustrations by artist Andrzej Klimowski (see his website here), who is internationally recognized for designing not only book covers but film posters and original works of art.
4 out of 5 stars