Jana Matinova entered the Czechoslovak police force as a young woman, married an actor, and became a mother. The regime destroyed her husband, their love for one another, and her daughter’s respect for her. But, she has never stopped being a seeker of justice.
Now, as a commander in the Slovak police force Jana tracks the mastermind of a murderous international criminal operation. Her investigation takes her across Europe in a hunt for a ruthless criminal and the beautiful young Russian woman he is determined either to capture or destroy.Not only is this book set in post-Soviet Slovakia, but as noted above, Jana travels to other countries as an emissary for her country and as a part of her investigation. The international setting was intriguing, and I wondered what the author's background was and how much experience he had in this area. Apparently quite a bit.
He is interviewed at Scene of the Crime, the blog of author J. Sydney Jones. In that fascinating interview, Genelin talks about his travels and his experiences in Slovakia. He also describes Jana:
My protagonist is a commander in the Slovak Police. She loves her country, but is not blind to its faults. She reacts to all of the nuances of the mixed cultures in Slovakia, and the surrounding area, and it affects her interaction with other police officers, victims, witnesses, sectional differences in and around the country, political events that are unique to the area, and the position she has, as both a commander of police, and as a woman.Overall, I enjoyed the book and I will seek out other books in this series. The pacing was good and the story held my interest. I was expecting a police procedural, but this was more like a combination procedural / spy thriller / adventure story. The story jumps back and forth from the present to Jana's past experiences with her husband and her child. The plot is more focused on the present case, but the flashbacks give us an understanding of Jana's actions and decisions. Jana is human, she is not infallible, and she doesn't follow the rules.
I did have some quibbles: I did not like some elements of the ending of the book. Not necessarily "who did it" or how the plot all pulls together, but how the side plot of her family relationships played out. It was just not convincing to me. Sometimes the plot seemed too thrillerish to me, jumping around too much, too many coincidences. I don't want to turn anyone off of the book; I think it is a worthwhile read for the setting and the depiction of the cultural changes in this part of the world alone.
The book was published in 2008 and since then three more books have been released.
For other reviews, see Maxine's review at Petrona, Glenn Harper's review at International Noir Fiction, and a review by Barry at Blogging for a Good Book.
Publisher: Soho Crime, 2008
Length: 328 pages
Format: Trade Paperback
Series: Commander Jana Matinova, #1
Source: I purchased my copy.