Marek Krajewski’s Death in Breslau, like its fellow novels, is a curious piece of work, set in 1930′s Breslau, which is present day Wroclaw. German detective Eberhard Mock is the chief protagonist, and Breslau is his literal stomping ground, where he happily lords it over his beloved ladies, and not-so-loved assorted criminal elements. This particular tale involves Mock sharing the limelight with his assistant Herbert Anwald, as they investigate a horrific double rape and murder, involving scorpions and ancient graffiti.
This book is curious in that although the plot is fairly obvious and sometimes ultimately unsatisfying, the main point of interest (for me at least) is the escapades and ruses that Mock gets up to, as he carouses his way around Breslau. He is a legendary (in his own world of course!) drinker and “ladies man”, and he regularly gets away with behavior you could only have gotten away with 80 years ago or so. In fact, that is really the main advantage of this book – having it set in the period it is, Mock has a license to go around doing the things he does!
By the way, here’s a quick and relevant history lesson – Breslau was part of Germany until the end of WWII, when the Russians annexed this part (and other parts) of Eastern Germany, and they became part of the new borders of Poland. This was what the Russians did “in return” for annexing massive swathes of Eastern Poland (present day Ukraine, Byelorussia, Lithuania etc). Having been to Wroclaw a number of times, I can attest to it being a beautiful city, especially the old square with the 16th/17th century German-style architecture. The author really does a good job of bringing this area to life within a different era, and it is a fascinating, even if fictional, insight into what pre-Polish Wroclaw was like.
The plot of this novel is outrageous, to say the least, involving ancient rituals, sects and Freemasons. That’s not to say it isn’t fun though! Best not to forget the endless drinking and smoking, the overindulgence in food and the bacchanalian sex sessions and antics, all of which combine to make a very satisfying read. But then again, for the aforementioned carnal and sensuous reasons I enjoyed the book, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak.
So reader beware, this book is not for the faint-hearted or easily offended – and its all the better for it, in my opinion.