A Commander Jana Matinova Mystery by Michael Genelin
Review: In Michael Genelin's second novel in the Commander Jana Matinova series, Jana's lot in life hasn't gotten much better. A young grandmother she's still mourning the loss of her bank robber husband, experiencing dark dreams about her dead daughter, and struggling to survive in a cesspool of political, judicial and police department corruption. Even the bright spots of a visit with her granddaughter and a passionate affair with a government lawyer fade to black when an attempted kidnapping fails and her lover appears to be joining anti-corruption forces waging a bitter war against her.
Set in post-communist Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, Genelin's novel brings a sense of dark realism to the politics of the struggling country. Jana is on the edges of the maelstrom since her earliest friend, Sofia, raped years ago by a now prominent political figure, has rebounded to become a member of parliament and has had a torrid affair with the designated deputy prime minister that has boiled over into the national newspapers. Jana has her own problems to face. In her rise through the ranks she's accumulated enemies, and someone is out to get her, even going so far as to plant incriminating evidence of corruption and trying to assassinate her while she investigates a series of murders, some obviously related to an international smuggling ring. In her rough and tumble world, Jana's no goody two shoes. She's not above threatening witnesses and suspects alike, shooting alleged criminals, or bending the law to its breaking point. On her softer side she is torn with the threat of losing contact with her granddaughter, and falls in love with a government prosecutor who sees her as "the youngest, prettiest, and sexiest grandmother I have ever seen." Her boss, with his fetish for collecting police headgear from around the world, is a memorable character too. But while their relationship is a supportive one, others of Matinova's crumble, especially when she catches her deputy rifling through her desk, gets caught in a cross-fire of bullets between anti-corruption police and unidentified shooters, and has a falling out with best-friend Sofia over her newly-found allegiances, including her earlier rapist.
A highly competent thriller by a UCLA graduate lawyer who has worked at the Department of Justice in Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, Genelin's novel is an excellent tour through the Slovakian environs and neighbouring countries – even to scenes and murders in Nepal, India and Switzerland. It's an even darker trip through the hearts and minds of warring criminal gangs, of a corrupt politician and his even more devious wife, and of jealous lovers and rogue police officers. It's a slam-bang trip well worth taking if only for Matinova's astonishing role in the final scene in ensuring rough justice of the direst kind is meted out to a deserving murderer who appears to have eluded the formal justice system.
Special thanks to M. Wayne Cunningham (firstname.lastname@example.org) for contributing his review of Dark Dreams.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided a copy of Dark Dreams for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — M. Wayne Cunningham — All Rights Reserved
Reprinted with Permission
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Siren of the Waters
Soho Crime (Hardcover), July 2008
ISBN-13: 9781569474846; ISBN-10: 1569474842
The Magician's Accomplice
Soho Crime (Hardcover), July 2010
ISBN-13: 9781569476260; ISBN-10: 1569476268
Location(s) referenced in Dark Dreams: Slovakia
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Dark Dreams by Michael Genelin — A Commander Jana Matinova Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: July 2009
List Price: $24.00