Miloš Urban (1967), one of the most translated Czech writers has published a total of 15 books: novels, novellas and short stories. The novels Santiniho jazyk (Santini’s Language) and Hastrman (Water-Goblin) have been made into films, and Water-Goblin won the top Czech literary award Magnesia Litera (2012). The feature film Water-Goblin directed by Ondřej Havelka is the modern utopia, which confronts the problem of ecology with the phenomenon of the victim, and entered cinemas in spring of 2018. The novel Sedmikostelí (The Seven Churches, 1998), written in the spirit of Gothic novels and tales of terror, full of melancholy and murder in the middle of old Prague, has sold tens of thousands of copies and was translated into 20 languages. Almost every year he publishes a new novel on a variety of themes, which underlines his wide scope of interest. He combines suspense with literary quality.
March 2019, 350 pages
Available material: English sample, German sample
A gripping, suspenseful and terrifying murder mystery.
Karlovy Vary, better known abroad as Carlsbad, is a beautiful and somewhat sleepy real spa in western Bohemia, located on a river flowing through a picturesque valley. Something nasty, however, happened a couple of months ago and now it has occurred again: a visitor to the town has been viciously bitten by another tourist who committed suicide shortly afterwards. Both cases are similar, but neither the perpetrators nor the victims had anything to do with each other, they were complete strangers. A sense of terror looms over the cool colonnades and hot springs as guests begin to cancel their reservations, threatening to bankrupt the whole town. The deputy commander of the city police writes to Julian Uridil, his former friend from school, now a famous mystery writer living in Prague, and begs him to come back to his hometown and help solve the crimes that are so similar to those in his books. Julian arrives in Karlovy Vary and discovers a detail the police overlooked: at each crime scene somebody has left a photograph of a seemingly dead girl covered with false tattoos…
KAR – a story of love, revenge, and hatred towards a city, as well as its inhabitants, with an added flavour of spurting blood. A hallucinogenic, mysterious journey through a gradually dying city. Miloš Urban is returning to the bloody genre and he is taking it to Karlovy Vary, where he grew up.
KAR is a dark book. Even though Miloš Urban claims that he has already killed many people in his books, the way he approached his last 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 past Karlovy Vary. Famous people connected with this town – especially Goethe, who becomes a certain symbol of late love in this book – enter the text in short remarks.
Characters resemble protagonists of the novels Santini’s Language and Lord Mord. The charm of the city described almost as 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 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.”