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For the Dignified Dead

For the Dignified Dead

5.0 1
by Michael Genelin

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The gripping new thriller by Michael Genelin, "a master storyteller" (Library Journal), featuring the unforgettable Commander Jana Matinova, "one of the more intriguing characters in fictional thrillerdom" (Kirkus Reviews)

A woman's body is pulled from the frozen Danube in Bratislava. Police Commander Jana Matinova recognizes the killer's calling card. She had him


The gripping new thriller by Michael Genelin, "a master storyteller" (Library Journal), featuring the unforgettable Commander Jana Matinova, "one of the more intriguing characters in fictional thrillerdom" (Kirkus Reviews)

A woman's body is pulled from the frozen Danube in Bratislava. Police Commander Jana Matinova recognizes the killer's calling card. She had him in her grasp once before ...and he slipped away. But not this time. Determined to end the bloody killing spree, Matinova's investigation plunges her into the center of an international conspiracy involving hundreds of millions of dollars and turns the hunter into the hunted. Pursued by vicious assassins, Matinova charges across Europe in a relentless quest for the truth...and dignity for the dead.


"The real appeal here is Jana, who steals the show. Watch her skill in interrogations as she manipulates liars into confessing. Cheer her on as she maneuvers her boss into letting her do whatever she wants. And discover that if you've been distracted from the narrative, Jana hasn't. She's been ahead of the killers-and you-all along. No stock cop stuff here, no routinely cynical worldview-just this relentless little tank of a detective rolling over whatever's in her way. The subdued prose style, willfully anti-dramatic but with a crackling undercurrent, allows Jana to sneak up on everybody. The reversals at the end are jarring, and the creepy feeling won't go away soon." Booklist

"The chilly European setting is the perfect backdrop to very dark deeds, and Matinova is a clever and capable heroine who's not afraid to buck the system to solve her cases. Those who like strong female characters and meticulously plotted procedurals will be rewarded." Publishers Weekly

"A police procedural distinguished by intriguing characters and a setting unfamiliar to most fans of crime fiction...While the settings may seem exotic, Genelin reminds us that there are no borders when it comes to such human traits as greed and desperation. A wonderful introduction to this captivating and alluring crime series," Bookgasm

"Lawyer-author Genelin once served with the U.S. Department of Justice in Central Europe, so he knows his turf well. Fans of Olen Steinhauer's early Eastern Bloc thrillers (The Bridge of Sighs etc.) should find similar delights in the Commander Matinova books." The Rap Sheet

Praise for the Jana Matinova Thrillers

"Genelin effectively deploys a complex story and cast of characters to dazzle the reader," Boston Globe

"Genelin brilliantly blends action and detection, never allowing the plot twists to overshadow his characters' humanity," Publishers Weekly

"A gripping novel of psychological suspense with a truly original central character," Globe and Mail

"Readers hungry for a fresh crime setting will be enormously satisfied ... the portrayal of life in post-Communist Slovakia is riveting." USA Today
"A seething caldron of crime, corruption, political hypocrisy and violence," Washington Post

"Michael Genelin makes unfamiliar worlds seem knowable, and does so with great style," Pete Hamill

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Genelin’s compelling fifth mystery to feature Slovakian police commander Jana Matinova (after 2011’s Requiem for a Gypsy), the authorities believe at first that an unidentified woman, whose body is pulled from the Danube on a cold December day, committed suicide by jumping in the ice-covered river. But when the autopsy uncovers a wound that looks like it was made by an ice pick, Matinova believes it might be the work of an old nemesis known to her only as Koba. After the woman is identified, evidence that the victim may be involved in an investment scheme comes to light, and the stakes get higher for Matinova when she realizes she’s now a target. The chilly European setting is the perfect backdrop to very dark deeds, and Matinova is a clever and capable heroine who’s not afraid to buck the system to solve her cases. Those who like strong female characters and meticulously plotted procedurals will be rewarded. (Nov.)

Product Details

Brash Books
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.83(d)

Read an Excerpt

For the Dignified Dead

By Michael Genelin

Brash Books, LLC

Copyright © 2015 Michael Genelin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-941298-87-9


Jana Matinova walked into the office dripping wet and mildly irritated at the world. It was freezing outside, the snow alternating with sleet. A wet residue ran down the back of the jacket and shirt of her dress uniform, soaking it through her greatcoat. She took off the greatcoat and walked toward her office, following the muddy path the other officers had left on the office floor with their still-wet boots. Jana eyed the mud on the floor and toyed with the idea of issuing a directive that officers were required to take off their boots before entering the office complex, then immediately rejected the idea. Police commanders in Slovakia do not issue edicts regarding housekeeping affairs.

The officers and clerical personnel of her homicide unit had made a small effort to decorate the office by stringing small plastic lights and tinsel around the area. The decorations were still up even though it was past the Christmas season, and things now just looked wilted. The lights had several bulbs out, one of them flickering as if reluctantly giving off its last noel. The lights collectively interacted with the dust in the air, producing a foglike effect that gave the walls a vague and somber cast.

Several officers saw her come in, some raising a hand to acknowledge her. Others nodded, and still others were too busy with their own work to notice her entrance. Pavol, one of her investigators, passed her, giving her a barely perceptible smile in greeting, then turned and followed her for a few steps.

"How did the review go at the academy?"

"We moved it to the gym." She rubbed her arms to get the cold out. "It was frostier in the gym there than it was outside. The new class looked like every new class, one cadet indistinguishable from the other." Jana momentarily warmed herself at a portable heater that was ineffectually trying to make up for the bad central heating endemic to all the government buildings in Slovakia.

Pavol nodded. "I'd like to talk to you about the Antalik case."

Jana checked her watch. "Give me thirty minutes. At 1400 hours."

She continued down the corridor to the door of her warrant officer's cubicle and poked her head inside. Seges wasn't there, his coat gone, which meant he was possibly still at the scene where the body had been recovered. The man should have been back long before now. He'd had at least six hours to check the area. Considering the weather, it would have made her chronically lazy and self-serving adjutant eager to come back to the relative warmth of the police building as quickly as possible. Not being in the office meant he was out doing his own private business. So much for his being responsible for the division while she was gone.

Jana walked to her own office, hung her coat up, then took a quick glance at herself in the mirror hung on the wall behind the clothes valet. Still decent-looking, although there were lines she couldn't hide anymore. She grimaced, then sat down at her desk checking her messages. The only important one was from Colonel Trokan. He was still in Vienna and would call her at 1445 hours. She flicked a glance at her watch. Jana had another hour and a half to wait for his call. She heard the noise of a door opening and then closing, the sound coming from Seges's office. He was back. Jana picked up the phone and dialed his extension; Seges came on line almost immediately.

"Have you finished with the scene?"

"Yes, Commander."

"Bring your notebook with you when you come in."

Seges entered a moment later, carrying his briefcase. Jana pointed to a seat, the man pulling his notebook from the briefcase as he sat. She eyed Seges, taking into account his relatively dry clothes.

"Wherever you were last, it was indoors."

"I was at the scene of the suicide, Commander."


He corrected himself. "Drowning."

"The coroner concluded the cause of death was drowning?"

"Not yet. But it seemed obvious."

"Did you examine the body yourself?"

Seges hesitated. "It was frozen." He made an attempt at humor. "She was like a big ice cube."

Jana ignored the attempted humor. "So you don't know how she died?"

Seges realized that he'd made a mistake by jumping to his conclusion that she was a suicide.

"An informed guess, Commander."

"Not so informed if you have nothing to inform you."

"Commander, I have the obligation to run the division when you're gone, deal with the records, evaluate investigator performance, assess case dispositions, review procedures, lots and lots of administrative details. Warrant officers should make use of their experience as supervisors. Not poke about with suicides."

"I understand. Winter wind is even colder when it comes off the water. Wet cold. You didn't want to go where the body was pulled out. This kind of cold is, unfortunately, uncomfortable. Nonetheless necessary, since everyone else was occupied."

"The woman was already dead. I didn't need to spend much time with her."

"The dead don't want us to just saunter in, then quickly leave."

"She didn't reveal any impatience." He chuckled at his humor.

"That's because you've never been able to read the signs. The lady was hauled out of the river. It's an ice-covered river at this time of year. She was laid out exposed to the elements. Snow was piling on top of her without mercy. Strange people gathered around looking down at her corpse, onlookers prodded her with their shoes just to see what a dead woman feels like. No privacy. No place to hide from view. Just a piece of cold meat on the frozen ground."

Jana saw she still wasn't getting through to Seges. "Protocol calls for one of us to go to the scene. We give the deceased their dignity back, at least in part, by paying heed to their need for attention. Who's there to be considerate to the dead but the police? The powers that be have nominated us to care for them."

"Yes, Commander."

Seges's words agreed with her all the while his face gave the lie to his words. She folded her hands on her desk. It was always the same with Seges. He wanted less work, less responsibility, and more appreciation from her and the rest of the men, even though most of them, including Jana, wanted him out of the bureau.

She heaved a silent sigh then got down to business. "Tell me about the dead woman."

"There's nothing to tell."

There was a long silence. Jana seethed inside, wanting information and not getting any. "You've reached a quick conclusion, which may or may not be true. I want to know what you saw."

"I took pictures."

Jana slowly swiveled her chair in a 180-degree turn so she was facing the back wall, wanting to physically shake the man, all the while trying to contain herself. She took a deep breath then turned back to face him. "I want you to use words. Tell me what you observed."

Reluctantly, he consulted his notebook.

"A female, about thirty-five, 165 centimeters, blond hair dyed black, no marks on her that would indicate violence. No wounds, but the face somewhat disfigured. A crushed cheekbone. My guess is she was hit by an ice floe or tree when she was floating. I think they were postmortem, because there was very little bruising. No other distinguishing marks that I could see. In the water for some time, but unsure how long." He closed the notebook with a snap. "That's all."


"I don't know."

"No identification?"



He looked at her with a vacant, slightly panicked expression, aware he had been caught in something. "What about her clothing?" he got out.

"Any indications on the clothing about the brands or where they were bought?"

Seges opened the notebook again, checking his notes. "None that I could see."

"Did you check?"

He blinked, thinking about how to avoid any further criticism. "I'm waiting for the coroner to do the autopsy. Then I'll pick up her clothes and go though them."

"Did she have undergarments on?"

"The air was ferocious coming off the water. Everything was frozen. Her clothes were sheets of ice. I would have had to destroy the outer clothes to peel them back from her body."

"How long ago did the medical examiners pick up the body from the riverside?"

He checked his watch. "Three hours ago."

Jana leaned back in her chair again. "Where have you been the last three hours?"

Seges faltered, trying to come up with a story that would protect him under the circumstances. "I needed to get warm, so I stopped by a place for some hot wine and a little food."

"Three hours' worth?"

"I had to go home."

"Your wife?"

"She needed me to take her to the market."

"On police time?"

He squirmed in his seat. "She was yelling at me on the phone that she didn't have any food in the house."

Jana stared at him then picked up the phone, calling the medical examiner's office. An orderly came on the line. Jana asked for the duty examiner. A few seconds later the coroner came on the line, muttering a curt, "Yes?"

"Doctor, Commander Matinova here. Your people brought in a woman a few hours ago."

Jana listened for a few seconds. "That's the one. Were you able to get her clothes off?" She listened again, this time for a longer period. "How do you account for that?" She listened again, nodding. "That might be the case." Jana listened for an even longer interval. "I agree. I'll come by as soon as possible." Finally, "Thank you, Doctor."

She hung the phone up, the beginnings of anxiety growing from what the examiner had told her, the feelings propelled by the memory of a prior case, the angst escalating as she recalled the facts of that investigation. Jana tried to push the memory back, but like a badly fitted drawer prevented by wood warp from closing, more and more of a malignant remembrance oozed out along with all the apprehension induced by that case she'd tried to lock away. Jana forced herself to be calm.

"Interesting what the examiner says. She was not as frozen as the outer garments would seem to indicate. The doctor says she may have been in a warm spot downstream, or in a waste discharge that kept the elements from freezing her solid. There was an inordinate amount of detritus on her clothes. To explain the corpse's condition, he suggests that a short time ago the body may have broken away from where it was floating then been swept to where she was found."

"Perhaps she killed herself recently?"

"The examiner thinks not. After all, who commits suicide by stabbing themselves in the back of the head with an instrument similar to an ice pick?"

Seges stared at her, his mouth open. "Murder?"

Jana nodded. "The lady has informed us that she was murdered."

She didn't tell Seges about her premonition and watched him leave her office. She hoped she was wrong, that she wouldn't have to later give voice to what she was thinking: the woman's murder might only be a bad prelude to what might come next. And if it came, the nightmare would really begin.

Jana tried to forget what she was thinking by going over the day's correspondence laid out on her desk.

But the echo of an uneasy whisper continued in the back of her mind.


At exactly 1400 hours, just as Jana was finishing with her correspondence, Pavol came into her office. He was always on time, if not early, for all of his appointments. Pavol's concern with precision was reflected in the completeness of his investigations and the exactitude of his police reports. Sometimes he lacked imagination, but the man more than made up for it by working his cases harder than most of the other detectives. He settled his stocky frame in a chair, waiting for Jana to finish what she was reading.

Jana reached the end of a mailed flier she'd received, an invitation to a charity that supported a children's orchestra. She went back to the beginning of the flier. One of the people listed as a sponsor was Colonel Trokan, which surprised her. He generally didn't mix in events like this. His name on the list of endorsements assured the public of the charity's legitimate status. In addition, it assured that all of Trokan's subordinate supervising commanders would come, as would Jana. Trokan's involvement made their appearances mandatory. Jana made a mental note to buy a ticket. She laid the invitation down on her desktop, and focused on Pavol.

"You want to talk about a case." She eyed him for a moment. "My informed guess is that it's about the health worker's murder, the Antalik case, and about the mayor of the town where the killing took place, who is giving us problems. The mayor now wants you to give the murderer a medal." She pushed on, withholding a small item for the sake of its effect. "The mayor says that the defendant Antalik is a good man; the victim was a bad one. The people in the area are signing petitions for the murderer. The murderer's wife is on a hunger strike. Their younger daughter had to be placed under the care of a psychologist, and the decedent should be dug up and the body hung upside down from a lamppost. Is all that correct?"

Pavol stared at her, wondering where she got her knowledge.

Jana let a smile leak out, giving away her source. "I met the mayor once. When we talked, I gave him an assurance that we'd cooperate with local authorities whenever the need arose; he just sent me a personal letter." She picked up a sheet of paper from the discarded pile on her desk and waved it in the air. "He also forwarded a copy of his letter to you." With her other hand she picked up the copy of the letter the mayor had sent to Pavol.

Pavol rubbed his head in frustration, his mouth taking on a grimace suggestive of his having downed a glass of very sour wine. "When I talk with witnesses to the crime, to onlookers, to people who know anything about either man, particularly about the defendant, they act like I'm Judas, betraying Christ. I'm half-afraid to go to the area. Their next step is to stone me."

Jana felt a twinge of sympathy for Pavol. During the course of her career she'd run across the same community processes. They often affected investigations. And the intensity of the community action always depended on the way inhabitants in the area responded to the criminal event, what they thought of the crime itself, the victims, witnesses, and the potential defendants. It also depended on the police, who might or might not know how to approach the locals for the investigative information they needed. Jana vigorously shook both letters as if airing them out. Then she set them down on the desk, reflecting on the issue for a moment.

"The correspondence says the dead man was a child molester. We know, at least, that's what the mayor thinks, and probably everyone else in the area. So their attitude is good riddance to the molester, and a big cheer for the man who killed him." She tapped the letters. "Unfortunately, a community's perceptions may or may not be true. So was the victim a child molester, Pavol?"

Pavol raised his hands, palms out, in a gesture of frustration.

"There are three children in the Antalik family: Ivo, the boy, who is the youngest, Marta, the victim, who is the younger daughter, and Eva, the oldest. I keep trying to talk to Marta, but they've supposedly got her under care and will not tell me where. And the local people, particularly where the parents live, are refusing to speak to me."

Jana tapped the letters with a finger then moved them away from her to the other side of the desk so they didn't peer up at her while she thought. "The decedent was a public health worker who supposedly molested the eleven-year-old?"

Pavol nodded. "The father, Josef Antalik, killed him when he found out."

"The anger generated by the molestation of someone's child isn't unexpected." Jana counseled. "And you wanted to see me today to ask what you could do about the public outrage and the lack of cooperation from our irate citizenry. They see us as persecutors of a man doing a virtuous act. After all, he rid the community of a monster, right?"


Despite his thoroughness, which was on the plus side of Pavol's qualities, he was, unfortunately, not the most empathic human being in Slovakia. Jana decided that a little tact and diplomacy was now a necessary investigation adjunct to calm the community waters before the outrage became a national phenomenon and the police were blamed for all the ills in the Slovak world.

"I think we'll go out and see the mayor."


"Why not 'we'?"

His face relaxed. If Jana came to soothe the citizenry, that meant his feet would be removed from the community fire. The commander would be the responsible party.

"Why not?" He managed a smile.

"Make an appointment for us to meet the mayor tomorrow morning."

He got up, looking more at ease with every passing second. "Thank you, Commander."


Excerpted from For the Dignified Dead by Michael Genelin. Copyright © 2015 Michael Genelin. Excerpted by permission of Brash Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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For The Dignified Dead 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
jayfwms More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding police procedural with a strong female as the protagonist. The discovery of a frozen body floating in the Danube starts police commander Jana Matinova on a pursuit of a killer that leads through many countries and brings in a number of related cases. Jana herself becomes the target as repeated attempts are made on her life. The action is realistic and exciting, and the story includes action on a separate case, and interactions with Jana's staff. The true bad guys are not fully revealed until the very end of the book. I recommend this book for an entertaining, suspenseful and satisfying read.