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The character of Prosecutor Szacki has enough charisma and complexity to give competition to the likes of Micael Blomkvist and Rob Ryan. Hopefully the first of many mystery novels from Miloszewski. Only in his mid-thirties, Szacki is underpaid, overworked, and seems to be feeling a bit burnt out.

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He's semi-happily married, and has a young daughter, but here he also finds himself tempted to have a fling with a journalist. The crime at the center of the novel is the apparent murder of Henryk Telak, found with something like a meat skewer rammed through his eye and deep into his skull.

Telak was taking part in a therapy-retreat, and the most likely suspects are the three other participants and the psychotherapist leading the group -- "One body, four suspects -- all sober and well-to-do". The therapy they were taking part in is something called 'Family Constellation Therapy', in which the participants confront some of their issues by play-acting, with the other participants playing the roles of the significant people in their lives; Telak's session had been a particularly unsettling one, and that night he wound up dead.

Most of the novel closely follows Szacki as he goes about his job and life, but there are also brief sections in which others are seen to be keeping an eye on the Telak-investigation, making it clear that there is more to this case than is immediately apparent -- and that steps are being taken, in case Szacki digs too deep. Entanglement putters forward without all too much momentum for quite a while, but: "It's impossible not to be entangled", as one character quotes, and the unseen complex connections eventually begin to be revealed -- and this in a post-communist Poland where there's a lot of past below the surface that many people don't want dredged up.

Telak was clearly carrying a lot around with him: while he was a fairly successful manager, his beloved daughter committed suicide in her teens, and his son has a heart ailment that requires a transplant if he is to survive much longer. Szacki continues to root around and to meet up with the oh so tempting journalist, Monika , and eventually some of the pieces come together, in a fairly complex puzzle.

At that point he is warned by one useful source of information: I'll advise you that as you have reached a point in your inquiry -- whatever it may be about -- where you want to talk to me, I would recommend caution. Caution may help, but Szacki -- with a family to think about -- rightly is and feels vulnerable, and soon enough begins to see what he's gotten himself into.

There's a decent mix of the Polish-communist legacy, psychotherapeutic mumbo-jumbo, and Szacki's semi-mid-life crisis -- though it all does drag on a bit. Brief summaries of world and local events and the weather at the beginning of each of the twelve chapters each of which covers the events of a single day nicely situate the book in near- contemporary Poland, and the mix of mundane -- the local football soccer team's big game, who is going to pick up the girl from playschool, workplace dynamics -- and criminal make for a decent read.

But if he can settle down and get comfortable with his character this could be the start of a decent series; the potential is all there. And it's another gem from Bitter Lemon Press, who seem to posses the enviable ability to sniff out classy books from all corners of Europe and, of late, South America. Teodor Szacki is a world-weary state prosecutor.

He's finding his job and bizarre colleagues a strain, and he's not much enamoured of his marriage either - not that his wife Weronika realises that, though. So the attentions of a flirtatious young journalist aren't unwelcome as a way of bringing some sparkle into his grey life. But then a murder case lands on his desk.

Henryk Telak has been found dead in a Warsaw monastery with a roasting spit stuck in one eye. He was one of a small group taking part in a psychotherapy session - so surely there's only a limited number of suspects to deal with. Except that Teodor's enquiries unearth an unsolved murder from 20 years ago, before the fall of Communism. And the secret police seem to be taking an uncommon interest in the investigation.

Teodor also has to deal with a cast of eccentrics, including crude detective Kuzniecow, a couple of dotty therapists and his enigmatic female boss. Antonia Lloyd-Jones's translation brings across the air of menace that shadows Teodor's rather picaresque personal and professional journey through modern-day Warsaw. I did struggle at times to keep some of the characters straight in my mind; the group undergoing therapy are a touch under-drawn, and I was never quite convinced by the anonymous Mr Big lurking in the background. But these quibbles are over-shadowed by the character of Teodor - conflicted, immaculate in his smart suits and utterly tenacious.

Analyst Cezary Rudzki, the leader of a group therapy session, uses the innovative Family Constellation approach, in which each person pretends to be a relative of each other participant. When one of the four members of the group, Henryk Telak, turns up dead with a skewer through his eye, Szacki investigates.

The victim's tragic circumstances--one child a suicide, another terminally ill--suggest to Szacki that a fellow patient got too absorbed in the role-playing and committed the murder as an expression of rage on the part of someone close to Telak. Szacki, who's undergoing a midlife crisis and has ambivalent feelings about his wife, considers an affair with a journalist hoping to get exclusive details on his inquiry. Readers will want to see more of the complex, sympathetic Szacki. I liked it very much indeed, not least because of the faultless translation, including puns and other running black humour - an example: "Is it long since you divorced?

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And not so much divorced, as separated. We didn't go to court.

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But now perhaps we'll manage to botch it all up again ". And later: "I'm dread sure it's because her father abused her as a child. Not an easy task for a translator to make these little jokes work without making it seem forced, but Antonia Lloyd-Jones does a wonderful job here. The main plot concerns the investigation of an apparent murder that has taken place in a converted Warsaw church during a weekend retreat in which four clients and a psychotherapist undergo "constellation therapy ", explained in fascinating style in the novel.

The victim, Henryk Telak, was very depressed and for good reason, to the extent that his death by suicide would have been accepted by his doctor and, probably, the authorities. In Poland, the prosecutor directs the police investigation and prepares the case for court, so most of the book concerns Szacki's continually frustrated attempts to find out who killed Telak, and why. There are oodles of atmosphere as he struggles to make progress, both in his own office concerning his less than attractive boss and attempts of a careerist colleague to add a drugs case to his already groaning workload, and at home, in his stale relationship with his wife of 10 years, Weronika, and their 7-year-old daughter, Helka.

The hints of the uncanny on the periphery of the story - from a writer whose first book was a horror novel - are present as in book 1. There is a sense of sly references being used which I don't know enough to spot, though I wondered if placing the eccentric rabbi in Lublin evoked Isaac Bashevis Singer.

I'd heard of this book long before I expected to read it; it was the subject of a few articles because the authorities in Sandomierz were angry about it. As a more religious and conservative society, they aren't happy to capitalise on darker crime fiction as a potential asset in the way of some Scandinavian towns; besides the issues highlighted re.

However, as this series has so much detail about the past and everyday life it would be a good one for potential tourists to read if they like crime fiction. And if you like some history and politics in with a well-constructed contemporary procedural and can stand a detective who's not the nicest, these are good.

A Grain of Truth by Zygmunt Miloszewski (ebook)

The Szacki books have also made me laugh more than other recent procedurals I've read. It's a bit of a shame there's only one more - not yet translated - but leaving it as a trilogy seems an admirable decision by a good writer who doesn't want to limit himself. He is in the same league as Jo Nesbo or Stieg Larsson. Aug 25, Laura rated it really liked it Recommends it for: Bettie.

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Shelves: suspense-thriller , audio-books , read , polish-literature. The dramatist: Mark Lawson is a well-known writer, critic and journalist.

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Polly Thomas Sound design Eloise Whitmore Production coordinator Sarah Kenny Executive producer View 1 comment. Jan 07, Nancy Oakes rated it really liked it Shelves: crime-fiction , bitter-lemon-press , translated-crime-fiction , crime-fiction-poland. I read this book and forgot to put in a review.

A Grain of Truth

There is also a darker sid oops There is also a darker side to this novel as the author explores the historical interactions of Catholics and Jews in Poland, moving the subject matter into the Communist era and on into modern times where, according to the author, the old legends, fears, guilt, and prejudices can still resonate. When the body, throat slashed and drained of blood, of a beloved member of the Sandomierz community is found in a ravine at the medieval walls of the town, in the middle of what used to be a Jewish cemetery, Szacki is called in on the case.

He's no longer in Warsaw, having relocated to Sandomierz after an affair caused the breakup of his marriage; up to now he's found provincial life rather boring living in a city "which was in fact dead after six p. But the murder investigation sets all of that aside for the moment. Although he's still a relative newbie, it is Szacki who gets the case precisely because he will come into it with no preconceived notions -- the dead woman was a friend of his colleague, and according to anyone in the town, as near to sainthood as any mortal could possibly be.

What Szacki terms a "razor-machete" is found nearby, and it turns out to be a knife used in the Jewish ritual slaughter of cattle. This is problematic -- as fellow prosecutor Barbara Sobieraj notes,"Sandomierz is at the centre of the so-called legends of blood," As Szacki notes, "They say that in every legend there's a grain of truth," but is that really the case here? While A Grain of Truth is an entertaining mystery that will keep you turning pages, the author also explores the ins and outs of the Polish legal system, and different aspects of Poland's history: Catholicism, anti-Semitism, Polish resistance both to the Nazis and the Communists, the return of the Jews after the camps, and the effects of Poland's often-troubled past on its present.

Even if you're not a history-oriented person, here it makes for interesting reading and, in my case, spurred me to want to know more. These little blurbs range from the funny to the serious, are related in a kind of sardonic wit and generally have some sort of sideways bearing on the action occuring in the chapter. Once in a while, though, the author does trend toward the wordy, but this is such a minor niggle about a novel that is so well written that it's easy to set aside, one I heartily recommend.

Readers of cozy-type mysteries probably will want to pass; on the flip side, while it deals with dark subject matter, it's not as edgy as noir, either. If you're a fan of intelligently-written translated crime fiction, though, this one will definitely appeal to you. Feb 18, Kathleen rated it it was amazing. I liked the first book in this series, "Entanglement," but I liked this one even more. The main character, Prosecutor Teodor Szacki, is more sympathetic in this one he seemed a bit misogynistic in the first one , and the mystery had even more layers to it.

The many-dimensional issue of Polish-Jewish relations during and right after World War II is dealt with a very interesting way that illuminates for us not only what happened then and why but what Poles especially members of the Polish intell I liked the first book in this series, "Entanglement," but I liked this one even more. The many-dimensional issue of Polish-Jewish relations during and right after World War II is dealt with a very interesting way that illuminates for us not only what happened then and why but what Poles especially members of the Polish intelligentsia now think about it.

I can't wait for the next translation of a Szacki mystery! Dec 31, Susan rated it really liked it. Well, I really liked and really disliked parts of this book. Szacki has had his complete midlife crisis and exiled himself to a small town.