Half a lifetime after a formative encounter with evil on a dark street in Ljubljana, Slovenia, a retired New York cop sees it bookend his life when it catches up with him.
Emil Milosec has left almost everything behind. He left his homeland, which was disintegrating around him, shortly after mounting a brisk and uncharacteristic counterattack on an anonymous man who threatened him with a gun. He’s retired from the NYPD’s 10th Precinct, a place where he never seemed to make much of an impression despite his formidable detective skills. He’s buried Elena Morandi, the beloved wife he lost to cancer two years ago. He’s so disconnected from his Brooklyn landlord, Franco Montoya, and neighbors like pathologist Paulien Vandervell and restaurant manager CeeCee Noily that he might as well be living in solitary confinement. Just about the only thing left that he truly prizes is his garden, a legacy of Elena’s loving ministrations. Now even that’s poisoned by his discovery of a severed woman’s pinky in a hole he’s digging. And Emil proceeds to dig himself into an even deeper hole by his failure to share his discovery with the police, in the person of his unresponsive ex-colleague Bernie Bracco, and by his hounding of Dr. Vandervell, whose own pinky is seriously injured but obviously intact beneath the bandage he insists she remove. Given the misfit between Emil’s disturbing discovery and his congenital inability to keep his mind focused on the present, readers are well-advised not to hold their breath waiting for a revelation that will tie up every loose end.
Stefan-Cole (Hollywood Boulevard, 2012) has produced a parable that’s less a detective story than a story about a detective—dreamlike, ruminative, and filled with questions impossible to answer.