Today’s featured book is Death in Breslau Marek Krajewski.
“Death in Breslaw” b Marek Krajewski
Why Clay Stafford chose this book:
Author Marek Krajewski’s set of four crime novels featuring Counsellor Eberhard Mock have been translated into 14 languages. To my knowledge, this first book in the series is the first release of any in the U.S. proper.
In the novel, the city of Breslau (which later became Wroc’law after WWII) is swarming with Gestapo in 1933 and the Nazis are sliding their fingers into all things law enforcement, political, and Jewish. The story plays forth and back between this time and around 1945. The novel first caught my attention because it opens in Dresden, Germany. Having just produced and directed a documentary inclusive of WWII and the Jewish victimization that evolved in Dresden specifically (www.oneofthemiracles.com), I know the book represents the time period more than accurately, though at times emblematically, which of course good literature always does. The story is as dark as it can get. If it were a movie, it would be in black-and-white or, at the very least, muted. Color would do it injustice.
Silesia is an area seeped in antiquity going back to historical developments as early as the fourth century BC when the Celts settled into the area and then Germanic tribes arrived in the first century. Throughout history, It has been an ethnic boiler pot, constantly evolving. Here the reader can watch the continued evolution of the region that took place in the mid twentieth century with the infiltration of the German Nazis as well as follow a murderer’s motive going back even farther into history.
The writing style is direct and clipped, reminding me a bit of Hemingway writing in a different genre.
There is a rape and murder, scorpions and spies, lots of scorpions and spies. There are surprises such as the solving of the case and then the realization that the case is not solved and a trail of clues leading back through time as only a European narrative has the ability to do.
The novel has a hedonistic feel throughout reflecting the time period. The characters are making do with occupational / wartime self-preservation and pleasures amidst a world they cannot control. From beginning to end, the book feels sinister and, because the characters do not know what is ahead, self-indulgent (not from the author, but from the characters). It is an excellent study of symbolism and allegory as author Krajewski suffuses characters and locations with traits symptomatic as well as literal.
In the midst of the darkness, there were some moments that made me laugh aloud, sometimes inappropriately with the same off-beat sense of humor embedded in the main character Counsellor Eberhard Mock.
Danusia Stok did a great job translating the work. Kudos to her.
On a side note, but adding to the ambiance (book and wine collectors will follow me here), the book jacket and the physical pages have a different texture to them, which you won’t get in a Kindle version. Each touch of my finger turning pages emphasized the layers of the novel. The cover of the book is black and feels like velvet, the pages course. I don’t know enough about the printing process to know what Melville International Crime did to achieve this end, but I loved it.
If you like your mysteries challenging and possibly high-brow, I recommend the book. It’s not typical American fare and certainly something to stretch the literary boxes we sometimes place ourselves within in both literature and genre fiction.
From the publisher:
“Introducing one of the most stylish and moody historic detective series ever: The Inspector Eberhard Mock Quartet
Occupied Breslau, 1933: Two young women are found murdered on a train, scorpions writhing on their bodies, an indecipherable note in an apparently oriental language nearby …Police Inspector Eberhard Mock’s weekly assignation with two ladies of the night is interrupted as he is called to investigate.
But uncovering the truth is no straightforward matter in Breslau. The city is in the grip of the Gestapo, and has become a place where spies are everywhere, corrupt ministers torture confessions from Jewish merchants, and Freemasons guard their secrets with blackmail and violence.
And as Mock and his young assistant Herbert Anwaldt plunge into the city’s squalid underbelly the case takes on a dark twist of the occult when the mysterious note seems to indicate a ritual killing with roots in the Crusades …”
Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!
– Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville