MacLehose Press, £18.99 Order for £17.09 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Phantoms of Breslau, By Marek Krajewski, trans. Danusia Stok

A haunting tale from the underworld

Wroclaw in Silesia, part of Poland only since 1945, is a city of ghosts. Beneath its postwar veneer lie the remains of German Breslau, a "microcosm" of all central Europe that vanished in the blood and fire of the dying Third Reich. A classicist at Wroclaw University, Marek Krajewski – in his splendid series of crime novels about inter-war Breslau – disinters this buried metropolis like a fictional archaeologist. He frames his tantalising mysteries and gamey characters with an almost hallucinatory sense of place, as the books rebuild – brick by brick, taste by taste – the atmosphere of slums and suburbs, parks and pubs, courthouses and whorehouses.

Victim of an obscure traumatic harm in the First World War, Krajewski's copper, Criminal Assistant Eberhard Mock, is a vice-squad specialist. Imprudently often, Mock samples the wares of the business he has to control. A drunken, wayward libertine, but Freud-admiring intellectual and fiercely logical investigator, Mock embodies the flagrant contradictions of Germany's new-born Weimar Republic. In his police work, as in the city's life during muggy, strike-torn September 1919, prewar formality and hierarchy wrestle with the demons of social and sexual revolution untethered by defeat.

In this third Mock novel translated (with a salty period tang) by Danusia Stok, the mutilated corpses of four young men in sailors' outfits hint at a case that belongs in Breslau's erotic underworld, Mock's beat. Yet the killer, who soon reprises this stunt, taunts the Criminal Assistant in messages full of the feverish imagery of apocalyptic religion: another sign of troubled times. Whenever Mock interviews witnesses, from river-shipping magnates to pitiable street-girls, they soon die. The messianic murderer wants him to confess: but to what?

From the squalid digs the detective shares with his lonely father to the plush villa of army chum Dr Ruhtgard, from waltzing hotel "hostesses" to heart-stopping local fare, Breslau 1919 lives again. Via tenement courtyards and aristocratic mansions, Mock edges closer to his quarry. Then, given his fatal propensity to mix business and pleasure, he falls for Erika. Despite their Baltic seaside idyll, the dangers multiply. If the secret of these deaths lurks in the wartime past, then the ritualistic dogma that surrounds them very faintly hints at an equally grim future.

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments