A Dead Man in Trieste
Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 2004,192 pages
The dawn of the twentieth century was a period of both hope and despair. Technology was improving life and holding out the possibility of more improvements to come. But in Continental Europe, especially in the Balkans, tensions were growing as the old Austrian Empire was struggling to keep a lid on the growing political and nationalistic unrest. In 1910 Trieste was not only a major port and Austria's main outlet to the sea, but also a magnet that attracted a large assortment of adventurers, artists, nationalists, anarchists and other peaceful and not so peaceful individuals. An added strain on a city already bubbling with intrigue is the sudden disappearance of the British consul in Trieste.
No one knows what happened to the consul or why. Is he alive or dead? Did he take an unannounced vacation or was he arrested by the secret police? Kidnapped by a secret revolutionary cell or in a jam over a sexual liaison? Is a formal investigation required or would a discrete inquiry be more appropriate? After mulling things over the higher ups in the Foreign Office in London decide that a discrete investigation by someone not directly connected with the Foreign Office would be best.
A policeman, named Seymour, from the east end of London is recruited for the job. Despite the fact that Seymour is second generation English, he is still considered an immigrant because of his Polish & Hungarian ancestry and this is why he had been assigned to the largely immigrant east end beat in London. But Seymour is a very good detective and, in working in the east end he has acquired a fluency in Eastern European languages which he will put to use in multilingual Trieste.
Seymour goes to Trieste and slowly begins to uncover and understand the eccentric (for a British consul) life of Lomax, the missing consul. In doing so he comes to see the dangerous forces that have turned the Balkans into a seething powder keg waiting to explode. Armed with this knowledge, he is then able to solve the mystery of Lomax's disappearance and complete the task Lomax was trying to accomplish before his exit.
An excellent historical mystery that keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end.
This report prepared by Chuck Nugent