At your fingertips. Prague in the mid-60s, an old Art Nouveau house and a murderer. Captain Exner follows in the footsteps
29. 4. 2021
It was mid-June. The May rains ended and the pressure above Central Europe slowly shifted, which had a positive effect on Captain Exner’s mood. He was sitting on the frame of an open window in his studio and needs a manicure. “We’ll start going to the water,” he said, “that’s good!”
Seven years and five books are within easy reach of the first “exnerovka”, in which Captain Exner and his two aides with speaking names, ie Vlček s Beránek. If the 1964 Byzantine Merchant’s Treasure is looking for an unexpectedly American detective, the 1971 story is all about it.
Captain Exner: studio, convertible and sense of humor
No one can deny Captain Exner a studio, a Mercedes convertible, education, intelligence, wit, a sense of humor and irony, or a weakness for women.
Erben’s handwriting is brisk, the dialogues tighter, the irony more pungent, and Exner himself more mature. He lost his juvenile pollen, gained experience and matured. He is an increasingly better psychologist (which I use, among other things, in contact with the weaker and prettier sex) and a receptive observer.
A book from 1971
The book was published at the very beginning of normalization. Recall that it was in 1971 that the XIV. The Congress of the Communist Party, at which Gustáv Husák was elected Secretary General of the party and Milouš Jakeš became the chairman of the Central Control and Revision Commission.
Yes, it was the Congress of Communists that was to demonstrate the stabilization of the power positions of the normalization regime after the defeat of the Prague Spring.
Given the historical circumstances, it is enough for Václav Erben to get a surprising number of anti-regime allusions into the text, confirming his dislike of the existing comrades’ orders and undisguised nostalgia for the old days. The neglected apartment building itself, which meets a confined scene of a story from the mid-1960s, is a kind of metaphor for the changing times. The Art Nouveau beauty of the once ostentatious and eye-pleasing building has turned to peeling gray calling for help.
Normalization life in the backdrop of an Art Nouveau house
The large First Republic flats are divided by temporary cardboard walls and inhabited by several families. Whoever has a so-called oversized apartment will either lose it or have to marry a subtenant. That is why the story is populated by a large number of characters, because there are several flats on each floor and one suspect next to each other. Fortunately, Gabriela, a former dear Captain Exner, lives on the top floor.
It is still almost at the scene, even though the painter Richard is not happy about such a situation, Exner’s arrival alongside a beautiful dentist.
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In addition to the two, we find in the house a well-known actor, literary researcher, experienced old lawyer, annoying customs officer, fortune teller, firefighter, plumber or Bibinka, a dog that turns out to be almost a police dog. And also two old, probably well-to-do old ladies who will disappear one day. Better said, they go to the spa, but they don’t get there.
The killer is …
Where are they? Have they been victims of crime? Or did he just change his plans and go on vacation elsewhere? Exner, Vlček and Beránek have a tricky case ahead of them, leading back to the pre-war history of the house. In the end, it is clear that the killer is
So we will have to wait until the tenth part. Know that we will have a good time with the actor Tomáš Jirman and that we will wish the villain to flee for a while longer.