Budapest Noir: A Novel
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Budapest Noir: A Novel

Vilmos Kondor, Paul Olchvary (New Directions)

The passing of the Hungarian prime minister before he could realize his dream of a fascist state has little effect on crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon. Life-and death-go on in the bustling old city, and a late-night tip soon leads him to a crime scene where a young woman lies dead, a Jewish prayer book in her purse. Disturbed by the bizarre circumstances-the corpse of a beautiful, well-groomed, religious victim abandoned in one of Budapest’s seedier neighborhoods-Gordon is determined to unravel the mystery of her demise, especially after her shocking identity is revealed. The investigation will lead him deep into the city’s dark underbelly-a shadow world of pornographers, crime syndicates, and Communist cells-and to the highest echelons of power, where one of Hungary’s most influential executives plans to make an economic killing through his strong political ties to Germany’s leaders…if he can somehow keep secret the fact that he was, at one time, Jewish.A gripping and evocative thriller, brimming with suspense and breathtaking political intrigue, Vilmos Kondor’s Budapest Noir is a richly atmospheric tale of murder and betrayal from a remarkable new voice in noir detective fiction. A dark, riveting, and lightning fast novel of murder, intrigue, and political corruption, set in 1936 Hungary during the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazis in Germany, Budapest Noir marks the emergence of an extraordinary new voice in literary crime fiction, Vilmos Kondor. Kondor s remarkable debut brings this European city to breathtaking life-from the wealthy residential neighborhoods of Buda to the slums of Pest-as it follows crime reporter Zsigmond Gordon s investigation into the strange death of a beautiful woman. As Gordon s search for the truth leads him to shocking revelations about a seedy underground crime syndicate and its corrupt political patrons, Budapest Noir will transport you to a dark time and place, and hold you there spellbound until the final page is turned.


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-picFiona 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.

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