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HARD CURRENCY by Steven Owad

HARD CURRENCY

By Steven Owad

Pub Date: June 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4328-2579-9
Publisher: Five Star

Years after its demise, communism casts a long shadow.

In 1983, young Polish political activist Julian Krol, having brought his beautiful teenage sister Krystyna to a political meeting in Poznan, immediately regrets the decision, which threatens to put her in the crosshairs of the oppressive Communist regime before the story jumps to post-Communist 1992 and Warsaw, where Julian works as a reporter. Two hard-boiled cops come to his office to tell him that Krystyna has committed suicide. The news doesn't seem to surprise him but puts an inexplicable chip on his shoulder. Though he hadn't seen Krystyna in several years, Julian, feeling compelled to learn all he can, cooperates with Lt. Daniel Kosinksi, the brusque detective assigned to the case, while also investigating on his own. Meanwhile, brazen, beautiful Irena Platz visits financial analyst Antoni Mirsk, a deputy in the Ministry of Industry during the Communist regime, in his plush offices to offer him protection in exchange for a substantial payment. When the incredulous Mirsk threatens to call security, Irena drops the name Krystyna Krol and patiently explains that because an employee of Mirsk's, a thug named Oskar Ret, supplied Krystyna with illegal drugs, Ret, and by extension the politically ambitious Mirsk, is implicated in Krystyna's drug overdose. Mirsk sics security chief Martin Figur on Irena, but she's far from cowed. Julian's retracing of Krystyna's final months turns into a referendum on his own life.

Menace pulses under the surface of Owad's third (Brother's Keeper, 2007, etc.), uneven but full of compellingly unpredictable characters.