HONOR by R. Wright Campbell


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Campbell's newest shares the brisk bursts of sex and violence of his highly touted, noirish In La-La Land We Trust (1986). But here he trades sultry southern California for a chill and severe Belgrade, 1970, as he chronicles with some psychological insight but little suspense a Yugoslavian cop's dogged unraveling of a murder linked to long-ago crimes. Lt. Michael Karel is the detective who's assigned by Judge Anton Trevian to investigate the shooting death of Jan Horvath, a wealthy importer with important government connections. Was the killing, as Karel suspects, a matter of honor? As Karel grapples with this question, he must tackle another mystery of honor: how to live with frigid wife Dika as he plots to smuggle himself and girlfriend Marta--with whom he carries on in several steamy scenes--to the West and freedom. Sadly, Campbell challenges neither the reader nor really even Karel with these questions. Most of the revelations come from flashbacks--trim vignettes of WW II-tom Yugoslavia--in which it's shown that Horvath, then a spy for the Royalist regime, wantonly murdered a wounded soldier; savagely shot a witness to his crime; then blackmailed Judge Trevian into helping him pose as a Communist when Tito came to power. Slowly, Karel puts together the pieces already in possession of the reader, finally identifying Stevan Georgi of the State Police as the murdered soldier's brother and Horvath's killer. After Georgi is sentenced to prison, however, Judge Trevian confesses, his honor lacerated by guilt over his dealings with Horvath. But Karel, picking up the last piece in the puzzle, pinpoints girlfriend Marta as the real killer (Horvath was blackmailing her). Facing a triple-threat to his honor--to turn in Marta? to defect with her? to free Georgi?--he compromises, and pays a sad price. Full-fleshed characterizations and a strong sense of place here; but this work is less profound than its weighty title would indicate, often slow going, and certainly not another Gorky Park.

Pub Date: Aug. 17th, 1987
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's