cover image Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street

Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street

Heda Margolius Kovály, trans. from the Czech by Alex Zucker. Soho Crime, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-61695-496-3

Previously unpublished in English, this mystery by the late Czech translator and author of the memoir Under a Cruel Star vividly depicts Communist-oppressed 1950s Prague.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 Nováková, 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 Kourimská, 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 Kovály’s first husband was unjustly executed by the Czechoslovak Communist Party in 1952 gives her narrative of double lives and betrayal a painful veracity. [em](May) [/em]