Leaving behind the City of Brotherly Love, Dr. Andrew Fenimore (The Doctor and the Dead Man’s Chest, 2001, etc.) travels to Kafka’s birthplace to find intrigue more worthy of The Trial than his narrow shoulders.
In searching for his cousin Anna Borovy and her husband Vlasta, two Czech professors who’ve suddenly dropped out of sight, Andrew also leaves behind a supportive circle of well-wishers: his “frequent companion” Jennifer Nicholson, her bookseller father, his office nurse Mrs. Doyle, his hip-hop office assistant Horatio (a.k.a. Rat), and his good friend Detective Rafferty. Life on the other side of the pond isn’t nearly as safe. Anna and Vlasta’s school-age daughter Marie tells Andrew (through pictures—her English is even worse than his Czech) of her parents’ abduction at gunpoint and warns that the walls have ears. Anna’s colleague Ilsa Tanacek, whose dinnertime fortune cookie presages “romance with a foreigner,” takes him to the adult-themed show of sinister puppet-master Jan Redlik, then invites herself back to his apartment for a drink. Fortunately, Marie is soon packed off to Mrs. Doyle’s maternal care back in Philly while plucky Jennifer flies to Prague to rescue Andrew from threats far more deadly than Ilsa’s romantic designs.
Fenimore is far too slender a reed to support the menace Hathaway thrusts on him: a runaway cozy that wants to grow up to be a thriller.