DARK DREAMS begins with the murder of a religious sect leader in Mumbai. This is followed by the death of a man on a hiking trail in Nepal. These are the first of the strands leading to a complicated plot that will culminate in Bratislava after more deaths and the near destruction of the reputation of a honest woman.
The story moves to a lunch meeting between two old friends, Jana Matinova and Sofia Senec. Sofia has been the director of the local branch of Transparency in Government but she has decided to move to the other side. She wants Jana to support her entrance into politics, an activity forbidden to police officers who must never be seen to take sides, especially in governments formed by coalitions. Sofia is successful in her quest to be a member of parliament. She is also successful in her quest to be the lover of the deputy prime minister, Ivan Boryda. Neither last long when Boryda’s wife demands an end to the affair and the end to Sofia’s role in government.
At the same time Jana finds herself being pulled into an investigation of criminal activity in the police. Initially an active participant in the investigation, she soon finds herself being the one investigated for corruption and money laundering. Jana has never engaged in any illegal activities but she knows her rank has led to envy. While she doesn’t believe she has any enemies, she knows that there are many who would not be disappointed to see her fail.
One night, she returns home to find a pendant hanging from a beam in her living room. All the light in the room is focused in the 3 carat diamond suspended from a fine gold chain. Jana knows she is being set up by someone and she brings the pendant and her concerns to her boss, and mentor, Colonel Troken. As evidence keeps mounting that Jana is corrupt, it is only with Troken’s help that she keeps her job and her life.
Jana, Sofia, Boryda and a number of dangerous underworld characters are the willing, and unwilling, participants in a global organization that finds the new Slovakia, feeling its way onto the world stage, a ripe plum. With little experience in governance, those who control the money would control the nation. When people have lived most of their lives under a totalitarian government, there is a temptation to believe democracy is only for those foolish enough to believe that the instruments of torture, fear, and the threat of death have disappeared with the advent of the new Slovakia.
I did some graduate work at Trinity College, Dublin in 1972. One of the men in my social circle was from Bratislava when the Czechoslovakia was a communist satellite. Trinity offered him a two-year fellowship. He had to go to London to plead his case but he was refused. Everyone else in our group was from the US or from western Europe. We didn’t understand why he didn’t accept the fellowship anyway; the Irish wouldn’t throw him out. We received a different kind of education when we learned that the reason he was allowed to come to Dublin to study was that, in a real sense, his family were hostages. His parents were university professors and one of his sister’s was married to a man who played in the national symphony orchestra. If he didn’t return, they and everyone they were related to would lose their jobs with no likelihood that they would get other employment. Much has changed in nearly forty years, but democracy has to be nurtured, it can’t be imposed. The Bratislava of Genelin’s books is the capital city of a country that is trying to nurse seedlings while protecting them from steel-toed boots.
This is a complicated story that goes from Nepal, to Slovakia, to Switzerland, to Hungary, to Austria, to the Ukraine, and back to Slovakia. People are killed and there seems to be no difference between the police and the criminals who began the killing in Mumbai. Jana is herself an anti-heroine. Her moral compass is set to personal survival without personal guilt. It is an interesting book with, in my opinion, one serious flaw. The women act like teenagers when they get involved with men. Jana is quick to take down anyone who threatens her but she talks to the man with whom she starts a relationship as if she is Barbie and he is Ken. The Jana of the rest of the book, wouldn’t have a moment of patience with a woman who sounded so sappy.