Miloš Urban (1967) is one of the Czechia’s most translated writers, and has published a total of 15 books, including novels, novellas and short stories. The novels Santini’s Language (Santiniho jazyk) and Water-Goblin (Hastrman) have been made into films. The adaptation of Water-Goblin was directed by Ondřej Havelka and entered cinemas in the spring of 2018; the book itself won Czechia’s prestigious Magnesia Litera (2012), for its meditiations on sacrifice in the face of ecological challenge. Urban’s book The Seven Churches (Sedmikostelí, 1998), brimming with Gothic-styled murder and melancholy in the middle of old Prague, has sold tens of thousands of copies, and was translated into twenty languages. Urban publishes a novel almost every year, each exploring new themes. He combines suspense with literary prowess.
March 2019, 350 pages
Available material: English sample, German sample
Rights sold: Spain (Huso editorial)
A gripping, suspenseful and terrifying murder mystery.
Karlovy Vary, better known abroad as Carlsbad, is a beautiful, somewhat sleepy spa in western Bohemia, located over a river that flows through a picturesque valley. Something nasty, however, happened there a couple of months ago, and now it has occurred again: a visitor to the town was viciously bitten by another tourist, who himself committed suicide shortly afterwards. Both cases are similar, but there seem to be no links between any of the perpetrators or victims . A sense of terror looms over the cool colonnades and the hot springs as guests begin to cancel their reservations. At this rate, the town may go bankrupt. The city’s deputy police commander calls on Julian Uridil, now a famous mystery writer living in Prague, begging his former friend to return to his hometown, in order to help solve the crimes so akin to those in his books. Arriving in Karlovy Vary, Julian discovers a detail that has been overlooked: at each crime scene lies a photograph of what appears to be a dead girl covered with tattoos…
KAR – a story of love, hatred and revenge towards a city and its people– with the added flavour of spurting blood. A tantalizing, hallucinogenic journey through the gradually dying Karlovy Vary. Miloš Urban returns to the murder-mystery genre with this gripping novel, set in his own hometown.
KAR is a dark book. Even though Miloš Urban claims that he has already killed many people in his books, the way he has approached his latest detective novel is exceptionally rough.
– Miloš Urban
Urban’s novel KAR is again very readable; the protagonist becomes the reader’s guide in the present as well as the past Karlovy Vary. Famous people connected with this town enter the text in short remarks – especially Goethe, who becomes a certain symbol of late love in this book.
Characters resemble protagonists of the novels Santini’s Language and Lord Mord. The charm of the city described as almost abandoned is omnipresent in the story. Urban’s novel once again defies genre categorization. It is a thriller, a boyhood memory, as well as a psychological novel. Admirers of his storytelling style receive a work which the author has served up as a game.
“After all these years Julian had finally returned. Even if just for a bit. All because of a letter. When he stepped off the bus he realized his hatred for his hometown had disappeared. Off in the distance, he could smell the hot springs, the minerals, that salty subterranean scent. No, he didn’t. What bullshit. Who knows what he smelled. He just didn’t want to feel indifferent. That’s not why he’d come. Immediately he began doubting his decision. Where was the swell of emotions? Nowhere. Even negatives ones would be fine. But… nothing. It was just some town in western Bohemia. He may as well have arrived in Plzen or Stříbro or Cheb.”