Quirky sleuths solve a string of brutal murders as Europe changes all around them.
Lwów, May 1939. Deputy Commissioner Popielski is called to investigate the death of a young boy found brutalized in an outdoor privy, a sign of escalating national tensions. Then Krajewski flashes back to the nearby town of Breslau on New Year's Day 1937. Maverick investigator Eberhard Mock is called to a similarly gruesome murder scene: a young woman strangled and raped, with half her face eaten off. She's identified as Anna, a teenager recently arrived from France with a dark and more imposing woman. Popielski, meanwhile, is immersed in the life of his beautiful teenage daughter, Rita, who's struggling at university but also engaged in some romantic intrigue hinted at to the reader but not to the father. The story cuts back and forth between the two men for a while. At length, because Popielski has investigated a murder like the one in Breslau, Mock travels to Lwów to consult him. These two iconoclasts, misfits in their own departments, discover kindred spirits in each other. They tackle the case with vigor, exploring the city's decadent districts. Popielski provides a helpful profile of the killer, whom they call the Minotaur, as well as files on all the local victims. Popielski, however, is thrown seriously off his stride when he learns of his daughter's risky behavior in the city's tenderloin.
Mock's fourth case, filled with incisive period detail, features not one but two singular detectives at its core.