cover image Children of Our Age

Children of Our Age

A.M. Bakalar. Jantar (Dufour, dist.), $21 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-9933773-3-4

Bakalar (Madame Mephisto) artfully interweaves several narrative strands in this enthralling crime novel and manages the impressive feat of humanizing thuggish brothers Damian and Igor Kulesza, who work as enforcers, without making any apologies for their brutal tendencies. The brothers are part of a sophisticated fraud operation run by Karol Sosnowski, who identifies people whose “desperate circumstances provided the perfect opportunity to dismantle their lives and re-assemble them again to suit his own well-thought-out plans.” Karol, who’s a student of psychologist Abraham Maslow, entices his fellow Poles to leave their homeland for the promise of gainful employment in London, where their identities are appropriated so that Karol can use them to apply for government benefits and loans that will line his own purse. The plight of Karol’s victims is palpable, and Bakalar does a superb job of making him a plausible mastermind in this realistic tale of the challenges Polish immigrants face in 21st-century London. Captivating phrasing (“There were other things, less terrible things, the Kulesza brothers were supposed to be doing”) enhances the skillful storytelling. (Mar.)