Review: ENTANGLEMENT by Zygmunt Miloszewski

entanglementIn Warsaw in 2005 Henryk Telak, an apparently mild middle-aged man, is found dead following a harrowing group therapy session. It falls to Prosecutor Teodor Szacki to determine if Telak was murdered (though even he admits that a skewer through the eye seems an unlikely choice for a suicide) and, assuming so, to uncover the culprit.

This clever, witty and surprising story unfolds from Szacki’s somewhat jaded point of view. He is 35 years old, married with one child and a growing sense that life is passing him by. Although doggedly persistent in fulfilling his work-related duties, sometimes in the face of direct opposition and often despite other people’s ennui, his commitment to his family is less straight forward and he develops something of an obsession with a young female reporter. This last fact should probably have made me dislike Teo more than I did but despite, or perhaps because of his foibles, I was thoroughly engaged by this very realistic character. His black sense of humour, testament in this English version of the novel to the talents of the novel’s translator, sealed the deal as far as I am concerned. I was quickly invested in wanting to know how he would untangle his professional and personal lives and  couldn’t help but empathise with his wondering if life as a mid-level bureaucrat was the best he could, or should, hope for.

ENTANGLEMENT’s plot takes many twists as it proceeds from a fairly classic locked-room scenario to something more sinister involving a past event with possible links to Poland’s dark history prior to the collapse of the USSR. The victim was participating in a rare form of treatment known as Family Constellation Therapy and Szacki immerses himself in learning about it to better enable him to understand what went on during the hours preceeding Telak’s murder. I liked the way this aspect of the novel was portrayed, with the author eschewing the easier and more common path of the investigator ignoring or belittling things he does not understand. There’s one relatively minor aspect of the plot, a shadowy figure seeming to watch events unfolding with the aim of stopping Szacki finding out anything he shouldn’t, that didn’t quite ring true for me but overall the story is entertaining and genuinely suspenseful.

Once again I am reminded that there are some real gems languishing unread on my shelves and I resolve to ferret them all out sooner rather than later. ENTANGLEMENT has taken me to a new virtual location, offering a very strong sense of its modern, urban Polish setting, and provided an engaging, if not entirely likeable, character to lead readers through an intriguing plot. I will definitely be looking to read the second novel of this series which has, happily, recently been released in English.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Translator Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Publisher Bitter Lemon Press [2010]
ISBN 9781904738442
Length 336 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #1 in the Teodor Szacki series

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4 thoughts on “Review: ENTANGLEMENT by Zygmunt Miloszewski

  1. Bernadette – Oh, I know just what you mean about books waiting unread. I’ve my share of them too. I’m glad you enjoyed this novel and a few things you said about really resonated with me. I’m already drawn to Szacki’s dark sense of humour and his self-questioning if that’s the way to put it. It sounds very believable and realistic. Another point you make that got my interest is Szacki’s response to the therapy the victim was undergoing. I think it can be hard for an author to treat something such as a controversial form of therapy objectively. Such things are all too often either dismissed, blindly lauded or set up as the source of whatever bad happens in a novel without any solid information. I’m glad that Miloszewski has Szacki treat Family Constellation Theory with a little more depth.

  2. I’ve had this book on the shelf since 2010 after seeing a couple of reviews of it. For some reason I’ve not read it. I keep picking it up and putting it down. Maybe I should take a decent 50 page run at it and see how I get on.

  3. You’ve sold this one to me, Bernadette: I very much like the sound of Teo and the national / historical elements of the narrative. I haven’t read any Polish fiction in ages either, so it’s definitely going on the list – many thanks.

  4. Pingback: Books of the Month – January 2013 | Reactions to Reading

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