Friday, December 9, 2011

Murder on the Danube by William S. Shepard

"Robbie" Cutler, a thirtyish American career diplomat, is beginning an assignment as Political Officer at the American Embassy in Budapest. He previously served as Consul in Bordeaux (where he was yanked out for his own safety after exposing a Basque terrorist leader, in Vintage Murder, the first in this series of Robbie Cutler diplomatic mysteries).
The return to Budapest of a prominent Hungarian-American, Janos Magassy, sets off a train of events. Magassy had been the leader of a resistance group during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Before its members can meet again, Magassy is brutally murdered in a side street in Obuda. Given the murdered man’s national prominence, American Ambassador Eleanor Horton tells Robbie to keep a close eye on the police investigation. Working in tandem with Inspector Racz of Central Budapest Police Headquarters, Robbie develops leads in the murder.
The 1956 circle linked Eva Molnar, whom Robbie's father, a former diplomat, had failed to save in 1956, and the murdered Magassy. Included also are a currently rising Hungarian politician, Imre Mohacsi, a Ministry of Justice official, Attila Nemzeti, and a prosperous German banker, Attila Szepvaros. Their stories are played out in a continuing flashback to the events of 1956. 
Complicating Robbie's investigation is the refusal of the Hungarian Government to open its own intelligence files from the period. Who was the police spy that betrayed them? The search takes him and his visiting sister Evalyn to the border fortress town of Gyula on the Hungarian plain, and even into the Hungarian ethnic regions of Transylvania, for a dramatic encounter with the reclusive Eva Molnar.
A socially adept bachelor, Robbie is much in demand at the many receptions and dinners given by the Budapest diplomatic circuit. He feels himself increasingly drawn to Julie Kovatch, the neglected young wife of the Australian Ambassador, Alexander Kovatch, a violent man, and himself an ethnic Hungarian who had fled that country as a teenager after the 1956 upheaval.
His romantic life complicates the mystery as Robbie gradually unearths Kovatch's 1956 past. Robbie's Uncle Seth Cutler, a nationally prominent former intelligence official, finds out from CIA biographic records that Kovatch is the brother of another member of Magassy's 1956 resistance group, the missing Csaba Kovacs. Ambassador Kovatch is also trying to find the intelligence agent who killed his brother in 1956. The trouble is that Kovatch is a driven but mistaken Count of Monte Cristo who is being set up by the real killer, as he investigates the banker, the politician, and the government official who were members of his brother's resistance group. 
Post Cold War Hungary is a compelling place to be. Hungarian domestic politics involves an uneasy transition to democracy. The old Warsaw Pact intelligence connections are still there, as Robbie begins to suspect that the real motivation in the Magassy killing is a contemporary one. Is someone protecting money laundering by the Russian Mafia? Like neighboring Vienna of "The Third Man" period everyone, it seems, has something to hide, or to blame on the past. And the Russian Mafia will not hesitate to intervene when their interests seem threatened.
Murder On The Danube is a Mystery Novel
(Approx 110, 000 words / 320 pages)
Find out more about William and his writing at
Find the ebook HERE

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