Budapest Noir by Vilmos Kondor
In pre–WWII Hungary, crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon drinks a lot of coffee, smokes a lot of cigarettes and goes about his job with a perfectly noir amount of sass and insider knowledge. Life has been cruising along quite well, when he’s called to the murder of a Jewish prostitute on the street, a crime generating a lot of disinterest of its own but which strikes Gordon as something much more complicated.
Unfortunately for him, he’s right, and against the backdrop of the sudden death of Hungary’s prime minister, a political event even Gordon can’t ignore, he uses all his contacts, pengos and wits to figure out what happened to the dead woman, and what links her to everything from the boxing ring to the police chief to those in the highest echelons of power.
I worried that the political chitchat of a region I had virtually no knowledge of would make this book an overwhelming prospect, but Kondor handles that possible issue deftly, explaining everything clearly but leaving the major thrills to the star characters – Gordon, his jam-making grandfather, his fed-up graphic designer girlfriend, and the medley of bad, good and entertaining sorts he encounters along his investigation.
Blackly humorous, as dangerous as the excellently portrayed times it’s set in and hitting all the right notes, this is a crime novel that does exactly what it says on the packet.
Fiona Hardy sells books and talks too much to customers at Readings Carlton, and puts together Dead Write for the Readings Monthly. She blogs haphazardly about movies and books (and sometimes music) and you can follow her on twitter - @readwatchtweet.