The keys to a good murder / mystery novels are a good plot, interesting personalities, interesting locations, and, of course, a good writer. There are a number of authors out there that have the gift to pull all those ingredients together . The Scottish writer Ian Rankin with his dysfunctional hero John Rebus and his stories set in Endinburgh is one such writer. He was my first real introduction to the genre. The Swedish writer Henny Mankell (1948-2015) who chose Yarstad in southern Sweden as a location for his, once again dysfunctional hero Kurt Wallander. The novels were so successful that the BBC turned them into a mini-series staring starring Kenneth Branagh. Another Swedish writer of note is Steig Larsen who, in the astonishingly successful Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, created the memorable characters Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomkvist. All novels were published posthumously and sold 80 million copies. They ended up as highly successful movies in Swedish and English. Maybe we should add Michael Genelin to the list with his five Jana Matinova novels . Apart from his writing skills he seems to have the necessary legal background needed to bring an air of authenticity to the plots.
Check his resume:
Michael Genelin (born January 6, 1950) is an American author and former Los Angeles Head Deputy District Attorney in the Hardcore Gang Division. Genelin has been involved around the world in Penal Code reform, Anti-Corruption reform in government, including legislative drafting, Ethics Establishment and Training, Freedom of Information laws, Witness Protection Practices, Trial Advocacy, Investigation and Trial of Cases, particularly homicides, Judicial Procedures, Reform and Creation of Evidence Procedures, Human Resources, all aspects of training, including Anti-Corruption Investigation and Prosecution and the general operations of law enforcement/prosecution/criminal court programs, Investigative Journalism Training, and Interactive Governmental Communications. He has written five novels, mostly set in central Europe, and centered around investigations conducted by Jana Matinova.
- Siren of the Waters (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2008)
Jana Matinova entered the Czechoslovak police force as young woman, married an actor, and became a mother. The Communist regime destroyed her husband, their love for one another, and her daughter’s respect for her. But she has never stopped being a seeker of justice.
Now, she has risen to the rank of commander in the Slovak police force and is based in the capital, Bratislava, a crossroads of central Europe. She liaises with colleagues across the continent to track a master criminal whose crimes include extortion, murder, kidnapping, and the operation of a vast human trafficking network.
This investigation takes her from Kiev in Ukraine to the headquarters of the European Community in Strasbourg, France; from Vienna to Nice during the Carnival, as she searches for a ruthless killer and the beautiful young Russian woman he is determined to either capture or destroy.
- Dark Dreams (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2009)
Prudent Jana and impetuous Sofia were best friends when they were schoolmates. One day Sofia approached a man in a car when she shouldn’t have and ended up being raped by a nefarious Communist Party bigwig. Jana pursued the culprit’s car, identified him, and vowed someday to bring him to justice.
Now Jana is a commander in the Slovak police force and Sofia, having made her name as a reformer, is a member of Parliament. Jana has fallen in love with an upright government prosecutor and Sofia is carrying on a notorious affair with a suave, married fellow MP.
One day Jana finds an enormous diamond dangling from a string fixed to the ceiling of the living room of her house. Was it put there as a present? Or, more likely, to entrap her? Where did this magnificent jewel come from? And why was it left for her to find? The answer leads Jana across Europe to unravel a criminal conspiracy involving multiple murders which has entangled her hapless, impulsive friend, Sofia, in its web, and ultimately to the criminal mastermind, the onetime Communist Party boss.
- The Magician’s Accomplice (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2010)
Devastated by her lover’s death in an explosion—on the same day an indigent student was shot and killed in sleepy Bratislava—Jana is transferred to The Hague, headquarters of the international police force Europol. On the flight she encounters a retired magician, the dead student’s uncle, who is determined to help Jana investigate his nephew’s death. And his help is indeed needed as Jana faces an international criminal conspiracy emanating from Europol itself.
- Requiem For A Gypsy (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2011)
When the wife of one of Slovakia’s most prominent businessmen is killed in a very public assassination, it looks like the bullets were meant for her husband. But could she have been the primary target? Commander Jana Matinova must push through her own government’s secretiveness and intransigence to discover what connects the murder of Klara Boganova to an anonymous man run down in Paris, a dead Turk with an ice pick in his eye, and an international network of bank accounts linking back to the Second World War.
- For the Dignified Dead (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (Nov. 3, 2015)
When the wife of one of Slovakia’s most prominent businessmen is killed in a very public assassination, it looks like the bullets were meant for her husband. But, could she have been the primary target? Commander Jana Matinova must push through her own government’s secretiveness and intransigence to discover what connects the murder of Klara Boganova to an anonymous man run down in Paris, a dead Turk with an ice pick in his eye, and an international network of bank accounts linking back to the Second World War.
So that’s Amazon.ca basic synopsis of the series.
One of my criteria for reading enjoyment is how long it takes me to actually read the material. The shorter the time it takes me to read then, obviously, the more I have enjoyed the book(s). It doesn’t necessarily follow that they are great literature, just that I enjoyed reading them. That is the case with this series of novels. I read the entire series in under three weeks – turned lots of pages and missed out on some sleep. I found the plots were good, although, my wife only read the first and the last in the series and she felt that the plots could be tighter. There were interesting personalities spread through out the stories. They included the chief protagonist Jana, her boss, her associates and a super villain that drifted in out of a couple in the series. The locations were places that I felt had been under represented in recent fiction. Most of the action takes place in Eastern and Central Europe including Czechoslovakia and the two member republics, then Switzerland, Austria, Hungry, Slovenia and France with side trips to the Ukraine and Germany. Judging by the geographic detail outlined in the novels I can only assume that the author is very familiar with the locales. Although there is a chronology of events that suggest that the novels should be read in sequence, it is possible to read the them as stand alone stories.
All in all, if you are into Crime / Murder / Mystery novels then I suspect you will enjoy them as much as I did.