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Rage by Zygmunt Miloszewski
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All eyes are on famous prosecutor Teodor Szacki when he investigates a skeleton discovered at a construction site in the idyllic Polish city of Olsztyn. Old bones come as no shock to anyone in this part of Poland, but it turns out these remains are fresh, the flesh chemically removed.

Szacki questions the dead man’s wife, only to be left with a suspicion she’s hiding something. Then another victim surfaces—a violent husband, alive but maimed—giving rise to a theory: someone’s targeting domestic abusers. And as new clues bring the murderer closer to those Szacki holds dear, he begins to understand the terrible rage that drives people to murder. ( )
  cjordan916 | Jan 12, 2017 |
I chose this book because it had the most interesting synopsis of the monthly free ebooks Amazon offers to owners of their Kindle devices. This is the second or third book from their "Kindle First" selection and the best yet. Still, it suffers from the same flaw all modern literature seems to suffers from, namely, the perceived necessary of including some needless intimate sexual encounter.

The book is about a veteran Polish Prosecutor with a ruthless reputation successfully prosecuting those cases brought before him. As the book opens he struggles with the relationships of those closest to him, including his grown daughter, his girlfriend, his ex-wife, and the young prosecutor he has been assigned to mentor. When a strange case presents itself he sees an opportunity to bury himself and his young associate into a case that would put a nice bow on his career, as well as help him avoid the struggles of interpersonal relationships.

The story is well told, and the author frequently paints detailed word pictures to help the reader see the scene in their mind's eye. The case presented is revealed step by step, with increasingly bizarre and intertwined story lines. There are several passages that are so descriptive you can not only imagine the scene but you almost cannot help but react viscerally.

Unfortunately the ending, to me, seemed rushed, contrived, overly simplistic, and a hard to believe, especially compared to the rest of the book. Finally, the included sexual scenes were not necessary. One might argue they exposed the main characters at their most vulnerable level and showed their emotional struggles in what should be the most intimate and close experiences, but they just seemed unnecessary to me. ( )
  BrannonSG | Nov 26, 2016 |
What does it take to make a man kill? Prosecutor Teodor Szacki is forced to discover some difficult truths in this stunning conclusion to Zygmunt Miloszewski's loosely connected trilogy. This works perfectly as a standalone novel, exploring the work of prosecutors in Poland, contemporary social attitudes towards domestic abuse and the true driving forces behind male and female violence.

-- What’s it about? --

When bones are discovered in a bunker in Olsztyn, everyone assumes they’re relics from the German occupation of Poland, but it soon transpires that these bones are only a few days old, and that their chemical removal began when their owner was still alive…
Prosecutor Szacki quickly realises the dead man’s wife is hiding something, but it seems the investigation is stalling, until another victim is discovered, horribly mutilated. Could someone be targeting domestic abusers?

Famously straight-laced, Szacki has no sympathy with vigilantes, but when his own family is threatened he begins to understand how one can be driven beyond one’s principles into pure rage…

-- What's it like? --

Chilling in its depiction of classic male and female attitudes. Occasionally gruesome. Consistently fascinating.

The opening scene is quietly disturbing in an eerie manner that sets the style for the whole book. We are invited to:
'Imagine a child who has to hide from those he loves...fear makes everything look different...The [painting] child is afraid to go change the water, and eventually all the paints are smeared with sludge. Every little house, every smiling sun, and every little tree comes out the same nasty black and blue...that's the colour of the Warmian landscape tonight.'

This murky setting is currently hosting a murder, and, contrary to how novels and films portray the ease of killing a victim, our murderer is struggling to finish the job he is so determined to conclude. The shockingly cold musings on the physical challenges presented by murder are thrown into even sharper relief by the suggestion that this murderer is none other than the straight-laced prosecutor we are expecting to be our hero...

-- What's to like? --

I loved this story and the way it's written. It's chilling in an intensely, genuinely human way. Szacki is a man who occasionally wishes to be better but sees no option other than to embrace his own misogyny. His lack of patience with what he terms a 'pseudo panda' (a victim of psychological domestic abuse) is utterly convincing and appalling in the way that only real human interaction can be; this is no psychotic monster lurking under the bed; this is a respected, respectable member of society who has never hit a woman, but look what happens if we find the right provocation.

Miloszewski's cleverly constructed novel has been translated into English by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, who captures a wealth of detail to construct Poland. This is Olsztyn's frustrating traffic light system:

'[The people] drive up, come to a halt, and sit there like sheep, waiting for the green light while their feet merge with the pedals, and they grow long white beards that reach their knees, and clawlike nails on their fingertips.'

I don't think Olsztyn's town planners will be very pleased with the depiction of their town, but the setting is evoked very effectively and contributes significantly to the lurking unease that characterises the novel as a whole.

This is enjoyable to read, occasionally humorous, thought-provokingly honest and, although the ending of the crime arc is less convincing than the beginning (the arch manipulator/puppet master is perhaps less interesting and less convincing than the other protagonists), the final conclusion perfectly reinforces Miloszewski's ultimate point about responsibility. The subject matter is explored sensitively with intriguing insights into society's perspectives on domestic violence.

-- Final thoughts --

Miloszewski is a respected contemporary Polish author who has written two other books featuring Prosecutor Szacki (both set in other Polish cities). Both have been made into films and he has won multiple awards, including the Polityka Passport for Literature 2015 for ‘Rage’. Translation rights to his books have been sold in thirteen different languages and I am definitely interested in reading the earlier novels - 'Entanglement' and 'A Grain of Truth' - to learn more about Szacki and more about contemporary Polish society.

I didn't really see the point in the newspapery summaries placed before each chapter began; I assume they are to reinforce the social context of the story, but (with the exception of the first one) I didn't feel they added much to the narrative and tended to skim them.

As a crime thriller, it's perhaps a little wordy for some readers, but I loved the prose style as much as the story, and if you like gory deaths then you'll love the central murder.

Recommended. ( )
  brokenangelkisses | Nov 2, 2016 |
This is the third Prosecutor Teodor Szacki mystery, but the first I have read. I am immediately going to search out the first two. I was thrilled by this book. Prosecutor Szacki is so understandable in his pleasure at his work, his happiness with his lover and his frustration with his teenage daughter.

The translation is a triumph.

I received a review copy of "Rage" by Zygmunt Miloszewski translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (AmazonCrossing) through NetGalley.com. ( )
  Dokfintong | Oct 2, 2016 |
The third and apparently final story to feature Polish prosecutor Teodor Szacki is a cracker of a read, especially for those who don’t mind their protagonists jaded and their humour black. Very, very black.

Szacki is living and working in Olsztyn, geographically and socially distant from his beloved Warsaw. Whatever other awards the book’s author may have picked up I’m pretty confident he won’t be receiving any love from the Olsztyn tourism board which can’t be happy at his depiction of their city. I am left with the impression that the only beauty comes from architecture the Germans left behind while everything is else is “bland at best, but usually hideous,” that the traffic engineers head the list of incompetent public officials and that even the weather can’t do anything right

Some sort of Warmian crap was coming out of the sky, neither rain, nor snow, nor hail. The stuff froze as soon as it hit the windshield, and even on the fastest setting the wipers couldn’t scrape off this mysterious substance. The windshield washer fluid did nothing but smear it around.

But while it may not be an inviting depiction of place it is certainly evocative and one of the real strengths of the novel. This is not one of those ‘could take place anywhere’ books.

Another strength is Teodor Szacki. He is not likeable in the traditional sense and some of his inner thoughts border on the deeply troublesome but he is compelling and the kind of person I am drawn to, in fiction and in real life. His flaws seem more human than those that have become clichéd for fictional detectives though perhaps this is simply because they are not the normal things one expects. He is for instance depicted as someone for whom life is a constant tussle between the man he wants the world to see and the man he really is. Sometimes this plays out in minor ways – such as drinking black coffee which he hates but thinks is more manly – and sometimes much more significantly. Like when the disdain of a junior prosecutor makes him re-think his offhand dealing with a woman who might have been subject to domestic violence. His strained relationship with his teenage daughter is due in part to this dichotomy too though there are other elements at play. It’s a beautifully and realistically drawn relationship, with both parties showing difficulties expressing their true feelings, and another highlight of the novel.

For me the story is the least successful part of the novel. The first half of it had me completely gripped but then it started to lose its authenticity and by the end was, frankly, farcical. It’s so hard to talk about why I felt this without giving away spoilers but I’ll just say it strayed to far into ‘world being orchestrated by a tortuous mastermind’ territory for me. The themes it explores make it worth reading though. Domestic violence is a pretty ‘hot’ topic these days but it can always do with more exposure and particularly from the male perspective. This is a book I can imagine recommending to a male reader who might need or want to learn something about this issue which is not something I can say about many of the books written by women on this topic. I don’t mean to be dismissive of those stories and the voices they allow to shine, but if we want to actually effect change in the world then we have to give men a way to learn about what’s OK and what isn’t too and they are far more likely to take notice of other men. The issue is explored in depth here and with enough nuance to give all readers some awkward moments, especially when combined with the exploration of the notion of accountability. Everyone in RAGE is forced to take responsibility for their actions or their lack of action.

Miloszewski has spoken about his work in translation as being a real collaboration and that does shine through here. There is humour and cynicism and all manner of linguistic delights that demonstrate Antonia Lloyd-Jones did a lot more than choose English equivalents for Polish words. The final product is a thought-provoking, memorable romp of a read that I highly recommend.
  bsquaredinoz | Sep 24, 2016 |
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"All eyes are on famous prosecutor Teodor Szacki when he investigates a skeleton discovered at a construction site in the idyllic Polish city of Olsztyn. Old bones come as no shock to anyone in this part of Poland, but it turns out these remains are fresh, the flesh chemically removed. Szacki questions the dead man's wife, only to be left with a suspicion she's hiding something. Then another victim surfaces--a violent husband, alive but maimed--giving rise to a theory: someone's targeting domestic abusers. And as new clues bring the murderer closer to those Szacki holds dear, he begins to understand the terrible rage that drives people to kill. From acclaimed Polish crime writer Zygmunt Miloszewski comes a gritty, atmospheric page-turner that poses the question, what drives a sane man to murder."--Page [4] of cover.… (more)

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