THE SMALL BOAT OF GREAT SORROWS by Dan Fesperman
Kirkus Star

THE SMALL BOAT OF GREAT SORROWS

KIRKUS REVIEW

Baltimore Sun foreign correspondent and crime novelist Fesperman (the award-winning Lie in the Dark, 1999) brilliantly re-creates Cold War chill in post-Bosnian Europe.

Former Yugoslav detective Vlado Petric fled the sniper terror in Sarajevo to find peace if not proper employment in Berlin, where he had sent his wife and daughter for the duration of the Bosnian bloodletting. The post-unification building boom in the German capital provides plenty of unskilled jobs for refugees, and Vlado would be perfectly happy to stay in Prussia and run his frontloader. But the international war crimes tribunal has other plans for him. American Calvin Pine drops into the Petric flat with an offer Vlado finds hard to refuse: the chance to capture Croatian Pero Matek, a major mobster with crimes in the present conflict and in WWII, when he served as a ruthless soldier for the fascist Ustasha. Pine thinks Vlado’s knowledge of the territory will make Matek’s arrest a simple matter. But nothing is simple in the Balkans. Vlado agrees to come only after his involvement in the disposal of the corpse of another Yugo-nasty makes Berlin too hot for him. Back in Sarajevo with Pine, Vlado begins to open not just Matek’s past but his own and, more particularly, his father’s. It seems Pine and his shadowy associates wanted Vlado for more than his linguistic skills. Their documents reveal Vlado’s supposedly Muslim father to have been a Croatian associate of the vile Matek and a possible participant in WWII atrocities. It is no surprise to Vlado when the capture of Matek quickly goes sour and the quarry goes south. Nor is it a surprise that Matek’s rural retreat was booby-trapped, causing the death of one of the good guys. What is surprising is the past revealed in Vlado and Pine’s unauthorized follow-up on Matek, an effort that takes them to Italy and the murky world of the Croatian diaspora. And the corpse back in Berlin? It keeps popping up.

Pray for more.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 2003
ISBN: 0-375-41472-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2003




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