Prosecutor Teodor Szacki makes it personal in a bleakly stylish mystery.
Miloszewski’s (Domofon, 2008, etc.) prosecutor Szacki returns to investigate a gruesome, puzzling murder in this follow-up to the phenomenally successful crime novels Entanglement (2010) and A Grain of Truth (2013). This time around, Szacki must uncover the strange fate of an unusual corpse: a skeleton of extremely recent vintage, the flesh chemically stripped from its bones. The procedure-heavy plot clicks satisfyingly into place, but the real draws here are Miloszewski’s richly drawn characters and playful, literary prose style. Szacki is an irresistible protagonist, glamorously chilly and handsome, driven by barely suppressed rage and possessed of a nagging, sarcastic wit that compulsively takes the measure of his surroundings (Olsztyn, Poland, depicted here as a gray, smudged, cold, rainy purgatory) and fellow humans with sardonic resignation. The supporting cast is equally compelling: Szacki’s ruthlessly efficient protégé contains hidden depths, his spirited girlfriend and resentful daughter make home life at least as interesting as chasing killers, and the piece’s villain proves memorably chilling. Domestic abuse provides the engine for the subsequent violence that pulls the rigorously sane and principled Szacki into a nightmarish crisis that tests his resolve—and feeds his rage—to an unprecedented degree, leading to a bruising climax both shocking and inevitable.
Gripping, lyrical, brutally honest, and cruelly funny—a terrific crime novel and better character study.