This rediscovered masterpiece captures a chilling moment in the stifling early days of Communist Czechoslovakia.
1950s Prague is a city of numerous daily terrors, of political tyranny, corruption and surveillance. There is no way of knowing whether one’s neighbor is spying for the government, or what one’s supposed friend will say to a State Security agent under pressure. A loyal Party member might be imprisoned or executed as quickly as a traitor; innocence means nothing for a person caught in a government trap. When a little boy is murdered at the cinema, the ensuing investigation sheds a little too much light on the personal lives of the cinema’s female ushers, each of whom is hiding a dark secret of her own.
Previously unpublished in English, this mystery by the late Czech translator and author of the memoir Under a Cruel Star vividly depicts Communist-oppressed 1950s Prague. Helena Nov kov , whose husband, Karel, has been unjustly imprisoned, works as an usher at the Horizon Cinema. When an eight-year-old boy is stabbed to death at the cinema, the culprit is clearly the projectionist. But when the investigating officer, Captain Nedoma, is also stabbed to death, suspects include Nedoma's long-suffering wife and his former lover, Marie, another Horizon usher. Everyone at the theater has secrets, including Karla Kourimsk , who lives luxuriously despite a modest job. Helena meets a sinister official who promises to look into Karel's case, while the dogged Lieutenant Vendys seeks Nedoma's murderer but even the confession he elicits doesn't represent the truth. That Kov ly's first husband was unjustly executed by the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1952 gives her narrative of double lives and betrayal a painful veracity.