cover image The End of Lieutenant Boruvka

The End of Lieutenant Boruvka

Josef Skvorecky. W. W. Norton & Company, $18.95 (185pp) ISBN 978-0-393-02785-3

Unlike its lighthearted predecessor, Sins for Father Knox , Skvorecky's latest collection of detective stories is less concerned with style than with a grittily realistic tone. In a poignant introduction, the author notes that he wanted to examine the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia through the eyes of a ``simple man''; in this he succeeds admirably, his sly instruction on recent history taking second place to the sprightly energy of these five atmospheric tales. Loosely based on real murder cases, they take irrepressible Czech lieutenant Boruvka from his modest beginning as an investigator of missing persons through the tumultuous events of 1968 and their aftermath. In ``Miss Peskova Regrets'' a Communist Party bigwig gives a young dancer LSD, then tries to make her subsequent death appear a suicide; such disparate clues as a four-leaf clover and a saucepan of boiled-over milk figure in the characteristically elegant solution. ``Strange Archaeology,'' ostensibly about a grisly homicide, provides a hilarious view of Prague's disastrous housing shortage. In ``Ornament in the Grass,'' Boruvka must decide whether two mischievous teenagers were murdered by trigger-happy invading Soviets or the cynical home army. Least compelling is the melodramatic ``Pirates,'' in which a Czech emigre attempts to smuggle a little girl into the West. (Mar.)