Krajewski, Marek - 'The End of the World in Breslau' (translated by Danusia Stok)
THE END OF THE WORLD IN BRESLAU is the second in the series of historical crime fiction by Marek Krajewski featuring protagonist Eberhard Mock, set in Breslau in 1927. At that time Breslau was part of Germany, but after World War II was renamed Wroclaw, and became part of Poland. This book is related as a deathbed confession by Mock to his former friend and colleague, Herbert Anwaldt, in 1960s New York.
Eberhard Mock is a criminal counsellor (police officer), struggling to keep control over his young wife, Sophie, who is sneaking off to orgies with her friends Elizabeth and the Baron, and over his nephew Erwin, who wants to be a poet, rather than a railway engineer like his father, Mock's brother. Mock abuses his police position, forcing his subordinates to shadow Sophie and Erwin, rather than work on the police department's murder investigation, the Calendar Killer case, so-named because two men from very different political and social strata have been found dead in Breslau, each with a torn calendar page found on the body recording the date of death.
Mock is convinced that the dates on the calendar pages rather than the identities of the victims are the key to finding the killer, a theory which encounters little faith with his fellow officers. He carries out his duties in a somewhat desultory style, as he is distracted by the violent degeneration of his relationship with Sophie, and his increasing dependency on alcohol. The murder of a local bigwig by the Calendar Killer forces his wily police boss, Muhlhaus, to take a firm hand with Mock. As Mock investigates, and searches the city archives for historic crime reports, he wonders whether there might be any connection between the murders and a bizarre Doomsday cult whose head, Russian exile Prince Orloff is currently lecturing in Breslau, citing the reoccurence of past crimes as evidence that the end of the world is nigh. The investigation leads Mock on an odyssey through the seamier side of Breslau, taking in brothels, drug-dealers and a bath house.
THE END OF THE WORLD IN BRESLAU is a similarly dark novel to its predecessor in the series, DEATH IN BRESLAU, set in 1930s Germany. Mock is shown in a far from sympathetic light; he is corrupt, violent to his wife, a heavy drinker prone to sentimentality and self-pity, and brutal in his treatment of suspects. However those he works and socialises with appear scarcely any more moral, with his superior, Muhlhaus, being an amoral political animal, and his junior colleagues just as corrupt and violent as Mock. So Mock fits well as an (anti-) hero into the decadent Weimar Breslau depicted by Krajewksi, with his peculiar blend of aggression and bookish classical leanings. This is a gripping and skilfully written (and translated) novel, a heady concoction, dark and bitter as the finest quality dark chocolate.
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Laura Root, England