Budapest Noir

Vil­mos Kodor
  • Review
By – June 13, 2012

The Hun­gar­i­an prime min­is­ter, a Nazi sym­pa­thiz­er who has plans to repli­cate Hitler’s regime in his home­land, has just died and every news­pa­per reporter is cov­er­ing the funer­al. Crime reporter Zsig­mond Gor­don is not inter­est­ed in the seamy world of pol­i­tics: he is hot on the trail of a sto­ry more to his lik­ing. While wait­ing in the office of the police department’s chief inspec­tor, he comes across a nude pho­to­graph of a beau­ti­ful young woman. When the body of that same woman is lat­er found on a street near his newspaper’s offices and the police seem unin­ter­est­ed in inves­ti­gat­ing her mur­der, Gor­don becomes obsessed with find­ing jus­tice for the vic­tim. In the process he los­es what­ev­er objec­tiv­i­ty he has man­aged to hold onto and becomes deeply emo­tion­al­ly immersed in a com­pelling tale of star-crossed young lovers, anti-Semi­tism, fam­i­ly betray­al, and murder.

When his inves­ti­ga­tion results in his being beat­en to a pulp, Gor­don refus­es to retreat. When his girl­friend receives omi­nous threats, he is shak­en but can­not bring him­self to move on. He is not even above involv­ing his beloved grand­fa­ther in his search for infor­ma­tion. As he peels away the lay­ers, what he finds at the core of the sto­ry is a Jew­ish cou­ple who con­vert­ed to Catholi­cism in order to climb the social lad­der and increase their oppor­tu­ni­ties for wealth — only to find their result­ing good for­tune hang­ing by a thread when their daugh­ter falls in love with the son of an Ortho­dox rabbi.

This is the first nov­el by Kodor, a Sor­bonne-edu­cat­ed Hun­gar­i­an teacher. He has cap­tured pre-Holo­caust Budapest in an atmos­pher­ic nov­el that isn’t over­reach­ing when includ­ing the word noir” in its title. It com­pels one to con­tin­ue read­ing to its con­clu­sion, by which point you are des­per­ate for a cleans­ing shower.
Nao­mi Tropp recent­ly retired after a long career in non­prof­it man­age­ment. She worked on the Ann Katz Fes­ti­val of Books at the Indi­anapo­lis JCC for 9 of its twelve years and direct­ed the fes­ti­val for three of those years.

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