For the Dignified Dead: A Commander Jana Matinova Thriller by Michael Genelin (Brash Books, $14.99, 359 pages)
The woman was already dead. I didn’t need to spend much time with her.
The dead don’t want us to saunter in, then quickly leave.
Brutality permeates the most recent installment of the Commander Jana Matinova international mystery series written by Michael Genelin. Returning readers will travel across international borders through a bleak winter landscape as Commander Matinova seeks justice for a murdered woman found encased in the ice of the frozen Danube River. The weapon of choice is an icepick, truly appropriate considering the weather.
The antidote is Matinova’s intense caring and commitment to solving the crime. Her biggest obstacles are her staff’s indifference to the victim and the endless paperwork and stalling by the bureaucrats both at home in Slovakia and in the neighboring countries. She manages to maintain a crisp professional demeanor while experiencing a deep sense of responsibility to her role as head of homicide in Bratislava.
Author Genelin is a master at creating voices that reflect the people and cultures portrayed in his novels. As is his style, the tale is fast paced and multifaceted. Everyday police issues are blended seamlessly with danger and intrigue. One need not be a veteran of international travel or the convoluted structure of bureaucracy to appreciate the wealth of detail Genelin has infused into this most engaging tale.
Don’t You Cry: A Novel by Mary Kubica (Mira, $26.99, 320 pages)
Mary Kubica’s third novel shows some early promise but fizzles.
Don’t You Cry is structured such that the story is told through the lens of two different characters, Quinn and Alex, in alternating chapters. (I sense trouble already. Ed.)
Quinn picks up a guy in a bar in downtown Chicago and wakes the next morning to discover that her roommate, Esther, has disappeared. Alex is a dishwasher in a town an hour outside of Chicago who becomes fascinated with a woman who suddenly appears at the place he works.
The story moves along well enough in the chapters in which Quinn is narrating. Elements of the mystery and an unexpected twist keep the reader interested, but the chapters with Alex interrupt the flow, and these unfold so slowly that the momentum wanes. It takes too long to find out why we should care about the characters and their relationships, and Alex’s back story turns out to be irrelevant.
It is difficult to ascertain early in the story any evidence of why Esther and Quinn were close, which makes it difficult to be concerned about Esther’s disappearance. But because of Kubica’s flair for storytelling, the reader sticks with the tale. Halfway through, it gets interesting. But by the time the mystery comes together, almost absurdly quickly in the final chapters, it’s difficult for the reader to put the various pieces together.
The flaw is not Kubica’s imagination or writing style, but due to the way she elected to structure this story the effect of any “aha” moment – when all is revealed, is significantly diminished.
Review copies were provided by the publishers.
Dave Moyer is a public school superintendent in the greater Chicago area, and the author of Life and Life Only: A Novel of love, life, baseball, and Bob Dylan.