Life’s tough for a Gypsy detective in Budapest. The cops don’t trust you and your fellow Gypsies, even your own family, shun you because you’re a cop. But when Balthazar Kovacs, a detective in the city's murder squad, gets a mysterious text, he gulps down his coffee and goes to work. The message has two parts: a photograph and an address. The photograph shows a man, in his early thirties, lying on his back with his eyes open, half-covered by a blue plastic sheet. The address is 26 Republic Square, the former Communist Party headquarters, and once the most feared building in the country. But when Kovacs arrives at Republic Square, the body is gone.Inspired by true events, the novel takes the reader to a hidden city within Budapest and an underworld that visitors never get to see: the gritty back alleys of District VIII; the endemic corruption that reaches deep into government as officials plunder state coffers at will; a rule of law bent to serve the interests of the rich and powerful; the rising power of international organized crime gangs who use the Hungarian capital as a springboard for their European operations; and a troubling look at the ghosts of Communism (and Nazism) that still haunt Budapest.
In this superior series launch from LeBor (The Reykjavik Assignment), set in Hungary, Balthazar Kovacs, of the Budapest murder squad, is caught between the bias of his people, the Roma who have turned against him because of his choice of profession and the anti-Roma prejudice of mainstream Hungarian society. Meanwhile, the Syrian civil war has led to many desperate people seeking refuge in Hungary, exacerbating xenophobia. Against this tense background, Balthazar pursues a risky murder investigation after he gets an anonymous text message with an address and a photo of a dead or unconscious man. When Balthazar arrives on the scene, he finds no body. His presence provokes a hostile reaction from members of the Gendarmerie, a revived national police force whose mission is considered a blank check for the government "to arrest anyone politically inconvenient." Still, Balthazar persists in his inquiries. The premise and the intelligent character construction make this a welcome addition to crime novels about honest, if flawed, cops who fight to expose the truth despite working under corrupt regimes. Agents: Georgina Capel, Georgina Capel Assoc. (U.K.).