Requiem for a Gypsy: A Jana Matinova Investigation Set in Slovakia
It seems as if the Soho Crime imprint is incapable of producing a bad book. Their mission is to publish mystery and crime fiction set in exotic locales that, as a general rule, are located outside of the United States. As a result, each work is full of surprises that are not limited to the crime or mystery at hand.
"The mysteries in REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY are interesting, but ultimately secondary to the characters and the settings, which are all intriguing and special."
REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY is one of Soho’s new offerings. It is the fourth in a series of Michael Genelin’s Commander Jana Matinova investigations. Matinova is a driven member of the Bratislavan force --- smart, savvy and, perhaps most of all, dedicated to the job that has cost her much in her personal life. As with the other books, this latest installment is driven by a series of seemingly unconnected murders that have taken place in various corners of Europe. They are eventually connected as the result of slow and painstaking investigation, which in turn is hampered by forces official and otherwise.
In the case of REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY, matters begin with a hit-and-run fatality on a street in Paris that claims the life of an unidentified elderly man. Meanwhile, the wife of Oto Bogan, one of Slovakia’s most prominent businessmen, is assassinated at an opulent party celebrating Bogan’s name day. It is obvious that Bogan was the target of the killing; at least it seems so at first. But Matinova was present at the party, and almost immediately undertakes an investigation on her own. She is prompted in part by the actions of the prosecutor in the official investigation, which seems to be aimed more at subterfuge than revelation. Making things more interesting for Bogan is the fact that he and his adult son have fled the country. Matinova begins to follow Bogan’s money, which leads her to a very dangerous pursuit through Vienna, Berlin and Paris, though not before she experiences some distractions along the way.
One concerns a package from Europol, which contains a routine inquiry regarding the identity of the Parisian hit-and-run victim. The second involves the apparent death by misadventure of a young Gypsy man, which, his family insists, was murder. The third and most significant involves a young girl named Em, who appears without warning on Matinova’s doorstep and endears herself into Matinova’s heart with no small degree of manipulation. Matinova knows she is getting played, but can’t help what she feels for Em, at least at first.
As the book progresses, the various plot lines and characters, seemingly disparate as they may seem, slowly converge and meet, as a series of revelations occur, some of which may have repercussions for future novels.
The mysteries in REQUIEM FOR A GYPSY are interesting, but ultimately secondary to the characters and the settings, which are all intriguing and special. Particular attention is paid to the similarities and differences in police procedures across Europe, which vary somewhat from those in the United States in general, for good or ill. But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this premise is how history, no matter how remote, can affect the course of contemporary actions.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 8, 2011