THE MONKEY HOUSE by John Fullerton


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 An impressive if bleak first novel from Reuters correspondent Fullerton, whose protagonist is an existential detective under fire from all quarters during the early winter of 1993 in war-torn Sarajevo. Tipped off that one of his department's informants has been killed, Police Superintendent Rosso braves the perilous streets of a city under siege to find the young woman's mutilated corpse in a largely unscathed apartment building known as The Monkey House. Although the Bosnian capital is still controlled by Croats, Serb snipers and artillerymen in the heights above the city have made it a living hell for what's left of the cold, hungry, and shell- shocked populace; municipal services are a memory; there's neither law nor order anywhere. Despite the odds against him, Rosso (a Croat with a sense of duty made the keener by remembrances of a long-dead father who was a Nazi collaborator) is grimly bent on solving the brutal murder. Although warned off by his beloved goddaughter Tanja, who's keeping company with Luka, the head of a local crime syndicate, he stubbornly persists. With a little help from Branston Flett, an American journalist who views Sarajevo's ethnic strife as a career-advancement opportunity, and with 11th- hour assistance from his political masters, Rosso gathers enough evidence to arrest Luka and have his armed and dangerous subordinates drafted into front-line units beyond the urban Gehenna. Shortly after the hardcase dealer in contraband is taken into custody, however, the Serbs (whom he supplies with ordnance) abduct Flett, precipitating a world-class flap in Western chancelleries and in the UN's peacekeeping command. In order to recover the kidnapped reporter, Rosso is invited to make what could prove an ultimate sacrifice. The honorable police officer's self- determined, if ambiguous, fate is of a piece with what has been revealed of his character over his four-day pursuit of justice. A first-rate debut thriller, with harrowing detail showing the limits of a memorable man and his ruined city.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-517-70660-1
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1996