Phantoms of Breslau

Marek Krajewski
Maclehose Press; £17.99

THOUGH this is the third of Marek Krajewski’s Inspector Mock series, which has enjoyed considerable success in Europe, one does not need to have read Death in Breslau or The End of the World in Breslau in order to enjoy this atmospheric detective story.

Set in what is now the Polish city of Wroclaw, Phantoms opens with the discovery of four hideously mutilated bodies by the River Oder in 1919. The case attracts the attention of Eberhard Mock, a policeman plagued by vivid memories of his service in World War I. Like all good fictional detectives, Mock drinks too much, smokes too much and has a weakness for femme fatale types. Yet there is an efficiency to the inspector — one verging on rudeness — which makes him not just a likeable, but also a believable, character.

Arriving at the scene of what becomes known as the Four Sailors Murder, Mock discovers an enigmatic message addressed to him by name. A serial killer is loose in Breslau, a religious fanatic with a unique MO and it seems that anyone Mock questions as part of his investigation is destined to become the murderer’s next victim.

The author, Marek Krajewski, a lecturer at the University of Wroclaw, has recreated a dark, uncompromising version of that city on the page. His Breslau is as much a character as Mock is, a casually brutal place of brothels and drinking dens populated by killers and occultists.

The novel’s plot is executed with similar assurance. Krajewski’s story rollicks along at considerable speed and, though the conclusion veers into the surreal, it rarely seems contrived or unexpected. Written with a sharp eye for detail and historical accuracy, Phantoms of Breslau is a cynical, moody thriller which solidifies Krajewski’s position as a distinctive voice in contemporary European fiction.


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