Sunday, November 2, 2014

Siren of the Waters: Michael Genelin

Description from the author's website:
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.

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Publisher:   Soho Crime, 2008
Length:       328 pages
Format:       Trade Paperback
Series:        Commander Jana Matinova, #1
Setting:       Slovakia
Genre:        Thriller
Source:       I purchased my copy.

20 comments:

  1. Tracy, this is a nice example of the post-Soviet era fiction, especially espionage thrillers. The KGB and the Kremlin were an integral part of that era and while the stories were merely entertaining, they were clearly overdone. I have not read modern suspense novels set in central or eastern Europe. Perhaps, my Soviet-era mindset hasn't changed!

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    1. Prashant, I really enjoyed it because of the time and place it is set in. I am so curious about that part of the world and the traumas they have gone through.

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  2. Tracy - This does sound like an interesting look at post-Soviet life in Eastern Europe. And I always like it when authors integrate their own experience and expertise into what they write. I know what you mean about the ending of a story being not quite believable, but it does sound solid.

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    1. I agree, Margot, overall the book is solid, and I liked a lot about it. That is why I think it is worth continuing the series.

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  3. I picked up books 3 and 4 a month or two ago and was tempted to go back and look for the first two, but never did. I think on this occasion I may well stick with what I have - I'm not exactly short of books to read!
    I wouldn't say you have put me off, but I don't necessarily feel compelled to get them all - cheers!

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    1. Well, Col, if I get to #2 before you get to #3 I will let you know if I think it makes a difference. The more series I get, the more I realize I will have to skip some books in the series, realistically.

      I do hope I did not put you off. This series might be more your thing than mine. There is a lot of corruption in that area.

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    2. I think I ought to reluctantly accept the fact that I'm never going to come close to reading all the books I want to and should instead just enjoy the ones I already have. If it was a rock solid 5 star review, maybe there's a bit more room in the tubs, but unless....

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    3. I know exactly what you mean, Col. I have a list of books I own now, that I want to read soon, that will last me two years. So why buy anymore books? But I do. I am sure with this series that #3 and #4 will suffice and you will know whether you like them.

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  4. Always a bit of a shame when the ending hits a discordant note - hmm, shall think about it TracyK, thanks very much for the review.

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    1. It is, Sergio. Maybe the author was just throwing too many threads in. Maybe it wasn't that unrealistic. Just did now work for me. But I still think the series is worth pursuing.

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  5. My husband would probably like this a lot. He is more of the thriller ilk than me.

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    1. He probably would, Patti. I really liked the setting.

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  6. Great review, Tracy. I actually have one of his books but just haven't read it. Thanks for the heads up on the ending. That's just the nature of fiction writing I guess.

    I went back to read your others reviews/posts and hope you don't mind my asking here in this thread: how did you like Collin Cotterill? Are you doing a review of his first book?

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    1. You are right, Keishon. Fiction is often unrealistic and over the top because who wants to read about mundane daily stuff? (Well, sometimes I do.)

      I did like the first Colin Cotterill book and I did like it. (You are always welcome to talk about anything.) I will be reviewing it soonish. I have good intentions, I just don't always live up to them.

      A question for you: did you read these in order? I have a few, but not the next one. Should I just read what I have?

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    2. I read them in order and would recommend the same. They are just too good to skip around (in my most humble opinion). Although I do like to skip around in series as you know. With Dr. Siri, I read them in order. I think the author also spoils if you skip around so there's that risk.

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    3. Thanks, Keishon. Very good to know. I just looked them up and I only have The Merry Misogynist and Love Songs From A Shallow Grave, so have a few to locate in between. Going to some used book stores this weekend, and if I cannot fill in there I will search online booksellers or get Kindle versions. Looking forward to them.

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  7. Interesting setting. Thanks for the review.
    Ann

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    1. The setting was my favorite part, not to slight the rest of the book.

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  8. Never heard of the book, and don't believe I have read any books set in Slovakia, so perhaps I should add it to the list...

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    1. A new one for me, too, and I do believe the author has a good background in the area and corruption in government.

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