The gray, urban landscape of 1936 Budapest is matched in this debut by the bleakness of the Nazi-influenced social and political milieu. Against this noir backdrop, Zsigmond Gordon, a newspaper crime reporter, investigates the murder of a beautiful Jewish woman whose body is found on the street. In the process, he encounters a formidable gamut of secret police, pornographers, thugs, and boxers while navigating such obstacles as anti-Semitism, sex rings, and family secrets. Gordon's one-man effort to get to the bottom of a crime contrasts strikingly with the prevailing sense of indolence that allowed for the rise of Nazi Germany in Europe. Readers' knowledge of the systematic mass murder to follow makes the story, with its dark setting, more disturbing. VERDICT Kondor's impressive first novel, which unfolds against an atmosphere tinged by alienation, fear, and the threat of violence, stands out for its deft writing, plausible scenarios, vivid sense of place, and noir sensibility.—Seamus Scanlon, Ctr. for Worker Education, City Coll. of New York
A dead Jewish prostitute arouses the interest of a crime reporter in 1936 Budapest. Despite two major headline stories to occupy him--the death of the prime minister and the upcoming trial of the head of Unit IV, which was tasked with confidence crimes--Zsigmond Gordon, ace crime reporter for the Evening, is sidetracked when he spots a racy photograph of a girl in a drawer left unlocked by Vladimir Gellért, current homicide section chief. Who is she, and what happened to her? A snitch sends Gordon to Nagy Diófa Street, a prostitute's stroll, where the girl lies dead with a Jewish prayer book in her purse. Later, the autopsy report indicates that she was pregnant and killed by a brutal kick to the stomach. Gordon's attempts to identify her lead him to a porno photographer and secret boxing venues. To circumvent his inquiries, his girlfriend is threatened and he is beaten so badly that he can barely stand up for two days. Still, he soldiers on, discovering the girl's ties to a businessman who owes his financial success to his cozying up to German politicos and whose livelihood would have been threatened if the girl's love for a rabbi's son were to be revealed. Tram rides from Buda to Pest and an overnight car journey to the mountains disclose more parts of the dead girl's story, which ends with another fatal beating and a death the homicide section chief deems a suicide. Dark and edgy, with interesting characters and locales. More from Kondor would be welcome.