cover image A Grain of Truth

A Grain of Truth

Zygmunt Miloszewski, trans. from the Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones. Bitter Lemon (Consortium, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (380p) ISBN 978-1-908524-02-7

A smart plot, an engagingly acerbic lead, and a nuanced portrayal of 2009 Poland lift Miloszewski’s second mystery featuring Warsaw prosecutor Teodor Szacki (after 2010’s Entanglement). After breaking up a human-trafficking ring in the provincial city of Sandomierz, Szacki decides to move there to begin his life anew, though he’s soon disillusioned (“he had thrown the life he had spent years building down the toilet in exchange for a sodding pipe dream, and now he was left with nothing”). When someone repeatedly slashes the throat of Elzbieta Budnik and leaves her nude corpse on display in a ravine below Sandomierz’s medieval walls, Szacki welcomes the chance to look into a serious crime. Discovery that the murder weapon was a knife used by Jewish butchers leads to speculation that Budnik was killed as a ritual sacrifice. More deaths follow, building up to an ingenious fair-play solution that matches the clever depiction of the protagonist’s midlife crisis. (Jan.)