Thursday, January 17, 2019

Dan Fesperman's Lie In The Dark -- first novels are rarely this good

In his first novel, Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman combines the skill of an accomplished novelist with a journalist’s eye for detail.  And he unravels a tantalizing mystery, while vividly capturing the horrors of war.

Lie In The Dark is set in Sarajevo in the midst of the Bosnian cvil war. The chief of the Interior Ministry’s special police is found dead, murdered, his death staged to appear the result of a sniper attack.

The first of many mysteries is why? Was he slain by criminals, worried that an investigation was closing in? Or was he greedy, trying to carve out a slice of the lucrative black market?

Police investigator Vlado Petric is given the job of solving the murder, although no one really seems to want that. One more death amid so many has little meaning, but Petric takes his responsibilities all too seriously.

As he navigates war-torn Sarajevo, Petric finds himself on uncertain ground., He must confront the constant threat of snipers and random cannon fire, food shortages (including a tragic lack of coffee), a people angry and isolated by suspicion and long-held prejudice, a vicious criminal underworld and a government riddled with corruption.  

From such rich material, Fesperman fashions a satisfying tale of greed, duplicity and casual cruelty. Bravery, too. Both Petric and the reader wonder if he will survive his dogged pursuit of the truth. 

Fesperman, who has written a number of fine books since Lie In The Dark was published in 1999, worked in the Baltimore Sun’s Berlin bureau, where he covered Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia during their civil conflicts. 

It’s this experience as a journalist that is the strength of this novel.  Fesperman has an eye for detail,  especially the small, but telling note that places the reader squarely amid the horrors of war.

First novels are rarely this good.

1. Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2. Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3. Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4. Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman

Currently  Reading --
A  Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
The League of Regrettable Sidekicks by Jon Morris

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