Dogged detective work in politically unstable Trieste, circa 1910.
When Lomax, the British consul stationed in Trieste, vanishes, the Foreign Office calls on Seymour to find him. The Special Branch officer, whose main recommendation for the job is a facility with languages, is soon mired in warring factions. Although the Austrians claim Trieste falls within their bailiwick, the Italians disagree, as do the Serbs, the Croats, the Herzegovinians, and the motley group of avant-garde artists and provocateurs Lomax spends his days with in the cafes of the Plaza Grande. Was Lomax too sympathetic to one of these interests, too enamored of the artist’s model Maddalena? Lomax’s assistant Koskash says no, but then why was Lomax forging papers to sneak dissenters out of the country under British protection? The local police under Insp Kornbluth seem dumbfounded, but the secret police headed by Schneider zero in on a gala at the Casa Revoltella crashed by strong-arm Rakic. Rakic’s boss Machnich, owner of the Edison cinema and a staunch Serbian partisan, was seen yelling at the soon-to-vanish Lomax. As anarchists throw bombs and artists plan a futuristic exhibition, Schneider balefully interrogates poor Koskash and Seymour keeps investigating until he makes sense of Lomax and the Balkan/Austro-Hungarian/Italian situation.
The author of the much-loved Mamur Zapt series (The Fig Tree Murder, 2003, etc.) scores again with this first in a series: a dry cocktail of pre–WWI European territorial impasses, naïfs, and an old-fashioned puzzle.