Inspector Anders and the Prague Dossier, Marshall Browne
INSPECTOR ANDERS AND THE PRAGUE DOSSIER is a very bittersweet book, published after author Marshall Browne's death (the book was being edited at the time that Browne died). The fourth Inspector Anders novel, it brings to an end an unsung gem of a series of Australian Crime Fiction books.
Set in Europe, the central character - Anders is an investigator with Europol. In the first book, THE WOODEN LEG OF INSPECTOR ANDERS, Anders is based in Italy, a hero of the Rome Police Force, who lost his leg in a terrorist attack, struggling with the after-effects of the bombing. The second book, INSPECTOR ANDERS AND THE SHIP OF FOOLS, has Anders assisting the French police because of his extensive experience with terrorist groups, and the third book INSPECTOR ANDERS AND THE BLOOD VENDETTA sees him back in Italy, in Milan this time, with a case that could be terrorism based, with Mafia involvement.
The final novel sees him undertake one last job, this time in Prague, in search of an unpublished dossier said to detail explosive allegations against prominent Czech business leaders. Set in 2006, clues to the dossier go back to 1968 and the communist secret police, with the current day events posing a great personal threat to Anders himself.
One of the things that you have to keep in mind when reading this series is that Anders is a profoundly damaged man - not just with the loss of his leg, but the PTSD like symptoms he continues to suffer all the way through the books. He's battle-weary, almost to the point of down-trodden, he's determined but seemingly depressed, he's quiet, thoughtful and in every action on the page you can feel his self-doubt and trepidation. He also lives with the daily threat of Mafia repercussions as a result of events in the third novel. He's always had tendencies towards being a loner, and whilst in this outing, there is at least one senior police officer with integrity on his side, his instincts have always been to hold his thoughts, and actions close to his own chest. To stand alone, but never out there.
Marshall Browne created something very compelling in the Inspector Anders series. His central character, in particular, is complex and complicated, damaged and deeply traumatised. He's compelling and somebody for whom empathy is easily felt. The settings for all the novels are also beautifully understated and elegantly sketched. There's real balance and finesse in the way that the places reflect the mood, support the action, give a sense of reality to events. The plots were also clever, compelling and quite believable, and there was always a sense that Anders may just be able to pull himself back for one more case, to stand alone and fight one more time. Except now we are all too aware that INSPECTOR ANDERS AND THE PRAGUE DOSSIER is where we all must part company. We'll miss him, as we will Marshall Browne's quiet, understated talent.
Inspector Anders of the Rome Police became a hero when he closed down an anarchist group years ago. But in the action he lost a leg - and his nerve. Since then, he's made his moral compromises. Now, battle-weary, he'll do one last job.
As Europol's top investigator, Anders is ordered to Prague to locate a mysterious, unpublished dossier said to detail explosive allegations against prominent Czech business leaders. What lies behind the shadowy threats of the dossier's author who - like Kafka's famous protagonist - styles himself as Joseph K? Clues lie in the past, in Spring 1968, in interactions between the ruthless communist secret police - the StB - and their victims.
Can Anders, caught between forces of repression and revenge, stop the mayhem before himself falling victim?