A dead man is everyone's business." Or so the saying goes in Trieste, a politically divided city at the north end of the Adriatic Sea that, a century ago, was the Austro-Hungarian Empire's principal Mediterranean port--and now serves splendidly as the backdrop of A Dead Man in Trieste, the first installment in a new historical mystery series by Michael Pearce. It's in Trieste, in 1906, that a British consul named Lomax vanishes, spurring an investigation destined to expose an identity-falsification scandal, risk fueling nationalistic hatreds, and thrust a young sleuth into the arms of a free-spirited "fancy woman."|
The detective in question is Sandor Seymour, reared by immigrant parents in London's working-class East End and now a multilingual officer with Special Branch. Dispatched to Trieste at the request of the British Foreign Office, it is Seymour's task--operating under the guise of an itinerant King's Messenger--to determine whether the eccentric Lomax left his post voluntarily, or was removed violently. Discovery of the consul's corpse, beaten and dumped into the sea, settles that question, but leaves others tantalizingly unanswered: Why had Lomax been roaming the docks on the night of his demise? With whom had he visited the cinema earlier that evening? Is his perishing somehow related to his falling out with an influential Serbian businessman? And why is Seymour suddenly being followed? Aided by a gruff Austrian inspector and a gaggle of bohemian artists, and pleasantly distracted by Lomax's model friend, Maddalena, Seymour must deal with revolutionaries, farcical "futurists," and his own family's political past as he tries to solve the consul's killing and prevent Trieste from becoming the fuse that ignites a world war.
British author Pearce, best recognized for his series featuring Gareth Owen, the Mamur Zapt in early 20th-century Cairo, Egypt (A Cold Touch of Ice, The Face in the Cemetery), brings to A Dead Man in Trieste his usual flair for convoluted plots, humorous characters, and deft crime-solving compromised on occasion by the vexatious demands of diplomacy. Seymour is a charming protagonist, displaced from his London beat to make sense of Trieste and, in sequels to come, resolve misdeeds at other British consulates and embassies across Europe. With the added incentive of seeing Maddalena once more--clothed or not--this series holds great promise, and the potential of introducing Pearce to a broader U.S. audience.
Source: J. Kingston Pierce, Amazon.com.