Dark Dreams

One of the best-reviewed crime fiction books last year was Michael Genelin's Siren of the Waters, which introduced Commander Jana Matinova, in charge of the police in Bratislova, Slovakia. Jana, the daughter of a Czech judge, is smart and tough and enjoys her work -- even though the Communist regime has destroyed her marriage and damaged her family. Siren featured one of the genre's best villains -- a shrewd and frightening killer who was involved in shipping young Slovak women around the world as sex slaves. The villain in Dark Dreams, the second book in what could well be a long and monumental series, is equally vicious: a top politician who raped Jana's best friend, Sofia, when she was a vulnerable teenager. Jana chased the culprit?s car, identified him, and vowed someday to bring him to justice. Sofia, having made her name as a reformer, is now a member of Parliament. Jana has fallen in love with an upright government prosecutor, and Sofia is carrying on a notorious affair with a suave, married fellow MP. The brisk narrative sends Jana across Europe to unravel a criminal conspiracy involving multiple murders that has entangled the hapless, impulsive Sofia in its web, and ultimately to the criminal mastermind, the onetime Communist Party boss. Genelin is a lawyer who has served with the Department of Justice in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary, so he knows the turf. He also writes with a sharp, clear style that lights up his characters. When Sofia, deep in the dangerous affair with her married colleague, asks Jana if her late husband cheated on her, Matinova thinks about her life with Daniel. ?It had been hard, but not because of women. He had been a revolutionary, had robbed banks for his cause. A handsome man, charismatic opinionated, willful... And finally, when his world imploded, he'd committed suicide. The literal truth was that he had been unfaithful, but not in the way Sofia meant...? It's only July, but it's hard not to see Dark Dreams at or near the top of many best-books-of-the-year lists.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."