Hard Currency: Post-Communist Mystery
by Steven Owad
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432825799
Date: 06 July 2012
Post-Communist Poland offers opportunities to those with influence or money, but not to others. Steven Owad sets his new mystery there in the 1990s and offers a gritty depressing view of society and politics. Rife with corruption, carryovers from the old regime, and few opportunities for others, bleak futures face many. Julian Krol, a reporter for an expose paper, learns his younger sister Krystyna has died of a drug overdose and the police are treating it as suicide. She was working as a high-priced hooker.
When he learns she took hashish and Angel Fire, he begins to doubt suicide. She was highly allergic to hashish and always avoided it. Had she taken it, she could not have taken any thing else. As he talks to her former friends, all of them claimed she never used drugs. In college, she had taken four languages, including Urdu. He discovers she was planning a new life in Pakistan as a translator.
As he continues to gather information, he learns about his sister's life since they parted three years before, the women with whom she shared an apartment, and her former boss. Meanwhile, one of her friends decides to blackmail a tycoon for money to immigrate to Canada, but discovers he won’t cooperate after he sends a henchman to eliminate her.
A jaded but honest police officer works on the case and uses his spare time and even his own funds to find the killer. Police are not well respected and some have given up on law enforcement. Julian also alerts his editor and asks him for information of some of Krystyna’s contacts.
The novel follows a pattern similar to others with an investigative reporter delving into the underside of politics and business to solve a murder such as Alan Gywn's Bloodland. An exciting climax takes the reader on a wild journey through an historic salt mine. At least a few of the characters try to better themselves without hurting others.