For the Dignified Dead, by Michael Genelin****

forthedignifieddeadThere’s a murderer on the loose, one that has killed across international boundaries. The weapon of choice? An ice pick. Happily, the case is assigned to total bad-ass Commander Jana Matinova, the best new female detective I’ve seen in emerge in crime fiction in decades. Thank you to Net Galley and Brash Books for the DRC. This title will be available for purchase November 3.

Part of what initially attracted me to this novel was the setting. Though Matinova finds herself crossing into various parts of central Europe, she is based in Slovakia, a country not even on my personal radar. By way of apology, I will point out that for most of my life, a giant swath of Europe and Asia was designated as USSR, and the satellite states lined up like faithful guardians around its perimeter included Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, both of which have been carved into different nations since the Stalinist realm crumbled. So I thought I’d learn a little bit about the contemporary contours of central Europe in the most enjoyable way possible—through fiction.

Genelin doesn’t disappoint. Along with Matinova, we have a collection of other cops, some of whom garnered truly fetching descriptions, such as this one: “With his thinning hair and lopsided smile he looked like a harmless, slightly unkempt beagle without its long ears.”

In addition we have the sinister Koba, a master criminal that Matinova considers akin, perhaps, to Holmes’s Moriarty. Koba’s role in Genelin’s story is complex and fascinating.

But most of all, I appreciated the development of Jana Matinova, both for her silver-bullet speed and cleverness, and also for that which is not included. We never hear about her hair, makeup, or her figure; we don’t need to know anything about her love life, and if she experiences any ambivalence about her lack of a domestic life, we don’t hear about it. In fact, Genelin treats his protagonist just as he would a male protagonist.

Now isn’t that a breath of fresh air?

The fifth star, which I would have loved to be able to add to this engaging story, is denied because of problematic passages that popped up often enough to warrant ten different notations in my kindle: “Too wordy! Tighten it up!” It seemed either as if there were two writers, one more capable than the other, co-writing the novel, or as if someone whose mother tongue is not English was struggling to say what needed saying. I noticed this was most frequent during passages of narrative, and less likely to occur during dialogue. Whatever it is, it could benefit greatly from either some rewritten passages or strong editing. But every time I found my eyes jerking through one of these verbose areas in the text, sooner or later we would come out slick as a whistle, and everything would commence to flow again. I don’t think a published text has ever confused me so much in this regard.

That being said, I would cheerfully read other books in this series given the opportunity. Because when push comes to shove, Commander Jana Matinova is a champ!

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