Friday morning, Denis, dressed in his best clothes, sits in the lobby of the Carleton Savoy hotel. Mr. Fico is a guest at the hotel and Denis knows his room number. Denis also knows that Mr. Fico never eats breakfast in the hotel dining room. On this day, Denis, dressed in his best but somewhat shabby suit, watches until Mr. Fico leaves the hotel at his usual time. Denis walks to the dining room, tells the maitre d’ his name is Fico, gives the room number and is shown to a table by a window. The Royal Breakfast has anything and everything a person could want to eat at the start of the day. Denis fills his plate, returns to his table, and, before he can eat a mouthful of food, he is shot by a man standing outside the hotel, shooting through the window.
Commander Jana Matinova is notified that Colonel Trokan, chief of police and Jana’s mentor, wants her to take charge of what should be a low level crime. But Trokan thinks the murder is an assassination and it took place at the city’s premier hotel, the choice of the wealthy and powerful of Slovakia as well as the equally wealthy and powerful of other countries who come to do business in Bratislava.
When Jana is convinced that all that can be done at the hotel has been done, she decides to visit Peter Saris, her fiance, at his office. Peter is a prosecutor and he and Jana have been romantically involved for a year. They have kept it quiet so they couldn’t be accused of collusion on a case but they recently decided to be open about the relationship everyone knows about anyway. Jana arrives at the Ministry of Justice building to find it surrounded by police and fire investigators. There has been a bombing. Peter Saris is dead, killed by a device planted into his office phone.
Jana is devastated; her future gone in a second. Trokan knows that Jana will insist on being involved in the investigation so he assigns her to Europol in The Hague. Martin Kroslak, a fellow officer, has been assigned as the representative from Slovakia but he has disappeared. Jana knows she must comply or lose her job and now, without Peter, all she has is her job. She will do the job required at Europol headquarters, she will try to discover what happened to Martin Kroslak, and she will, most definitely, be doing what she must to find out who killed Peter.
On the flight to the Netherlands, an elderly man sitting across the aisle begins a conversation with Jana. He is a magician, retired now, but still enjoying whatever chance he gets to ply his art. He tells Jana to call him “professor”. When the plane lands in Amsterdam, Jana asks to see the passenger list; she is not surprised to see that the professor has the same name as the murdered student. The professor knows Jana is a commander in the police and he is determined to walk a step behind her, determined that he will play a part in discovering why his nephew was murdered.
From the moment Jana arrives at Europol, the body count increases. She is assigned to the same unit Martin Kroslak was in and gradually Jana becomes convinced that he is alive and deliberately avoiding the international police unit at The Hague. Oddly, the only person Jana can trust is the professor.
Magicians depend on smoke and mirrors to accomplish their ends, to confuse, to make people believe something is what it is not. Most magicians have an apprentice to whom they teach their tricks. But in Slovakia, the magician needs an accomplice. Jana finds that the events that led to Peter’s death began at some of the highest levels of government in more countries than Slovakia. Magic is the art of distraction, of presenting a small lie in such a way that no one notices the deception behind the big lie. “The accomplice aids and abets the lie”. In this story, Jana needs to discover who is the magician and who is the accomplice.
This is the third book in the Commander Jana Matinova series. The stories are becoming tighter. Jana is always the commander in the Slovakia police. She has yet to be more than an outline; her personality has not been revealed. Her life has been marked by the deaths of all the people with whom she was close. She is a Slovak, learning along with her countrymen what that means in a nation that is no longer a police state.
The setting is unusual, the main character is unusual, and the stories are the similar to those in other police procedurals but with a different twist. Genelin is worth reading.