In DEATH SPOKE, Harry Przewalski investigates the murder of a renowned archaeologist, an expert on the famous cave art in southern France and Spain, finding lives torn by deceit, sexual blackmail, vendetta, redemption and a WWII atrocity. He excavates the deadly archaeological layers of the case: who were the artists behind the luminous cave paintings of bison, deer, mammoths and horses? A revolutionary theory threatens to embarrass French cultural heritage and ruin professional careers. Was one of the art caves forged to attract tourism? Ultimately, Przewalski uncovers a diabolical act of revenge plotted in the deepest recesses of the caves.
Plot: An archaeology professor’s theory about prehistoric cave art is the catalyst for this intriguing and treacherous murder mystery. The story propels questionable players into a longstanding conflict that dates back to 1944 in the French Vichy Free Zone during World War II. While the present-day plotline competes with the historical one--and some circumstances border on implausible--Krishtalka does a fine job of balancing story elements, all the while defying expectations.
Prose/Style: While the prose is rather overloaded with information, Krishtalka delivers evocative details and multiple thread-lines that readers of twisty thrillers will devour.
Originality: Offbeat and byzantine, this book's innovative plot, academic setting, and historical timeline provide a richly unique mystery.
Character/Execution: Arguably encumbered by too many players, this dual contemporary and historical novel hosts a cast of morally ambiguous characters. Attention-grabbing, a definite page-turner that succinctly presents an ensnaring hook, the story focuses on nefarious intentions, lengths gone to protect guarded ideas and reputations, and how the past invariably haunts the present.
Blurb: A prehistoric cave and a pedantic professor set the backdrop for murder.
Date Submitted: May 28, 2020
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Mystery!
Reviewed in the United States on December 5, 2019
So glad to find that the second Przewalski novel is as good reading as the first one. It delves deep into history and anthropology, from academic intrigue in Kansas to the ancient caves of southern France. Trenchant character descriptions, a brilliant plot and beautiful prose make this a must read. More Przewalski, please.
5.0 out of 5 stars Smart & Unputdownable
Reviewed in Canada on January 18, 2021
June Albright is the Dean of the faculty of liberal arts and science at the university of Kansas and an expert on prehistoric cave art. She is also ruthless and uses her power as dean to force sexual favours from the male faculty of the department. When she is murdered, no one is surprised. There are plenty of suspects to choose from - men who's careers were ruined when they spurned her advances as well as many of her adversaries from archeology whose theories she has ridiculed. But the most obvious suspect is her latest lover, Dr Porter. But Porter swears he's innocent and when he's arrested, he hires one-time paleontologist and now private detective, Harry Przewalski to prove it. Harry isn't completely convinced of Porter's innocence given the evidence against him but he is intrigued by the case, especially its links to the question of the authenticity of cave art near Rouffignac, a small village in France and the site of an unspeakable atrocity during WWII.
Death Spoke is the second Harry Przewalski novel by author Leonard Krishtalka and it is already near the top pf my list of best modern mystery series. It is intelligent, well-written and blends real history and science seamlessly into the story. It also has one of the most interesting protagonists in Harry that I have encountered in mysteries since...well, forever. But most importantly, it is engrossing and damn near unputdownable. A definite high recommendation for anyone who likes smart mysteries with plenty of suspense and twists and turns as well as a look behind the curtain of academia and references to history that rarely gets taught in school.
"A cinematically immersive murder mystery deftly combined with an intellectual drama.
BY LEONARD KRISHTALKA ‧ RELEASE DATE: NOV. 26, 2019
Acerebral detective investigates the killing of a renowned archaeologist who may have stumbled on a major case of academic fraud in this sequel. Joyce Fulbright is a dean at the University of Kansas and an academic superstar, famous for her research on prehistoric art left scrawled in the caves of France. When she’s murdered, all eyes immediately turn to her colleague and furtive lover, Dr. James Porter, who quickly admits to their affair but vehemently denies killing her. Still, the evidence so strongly implicates him—his hair and semen were found on the scene, and his skin under Fulbright’s fingernails—that even Porter’s own lawyer takes his guilt for granted. Porter hires private eye Harry Przewalski to investigate, a hard-boiled veteran who was once deployed to Iraq, and so uncommonly erudite he impresses even the scholars he meets. Harry quickly determines that the list of those with a motive to kill Fulbright is long—she treated her associates with despotic disdain and even blackmailed some for sexual favors. As one colleague of Fulbright’s puts it, referring to an academic excursion that she attended: “Christ, half the faculty on that bus would have loved to suffocate the bitch.” Krishtalka (The Bone Field, 2018, etc.), continuing a series that chronicles Harry’s exploits, skillfully mixes a murder mystery with an intricate tale of academic intrigue and historical drama. Harry discovers that Fulbright had scholarly reasons to suspect that the art in one particular cave in France in a village named Rouffignac is fraudulent and at the site of an unspeakable atrocity during World War II. At the heart of the author’s astonishingly clever tale—both intelligently conceived and executed—is the protagonist. Harry is slyly intellectual, lacks pretension, and harbors a profound storehouse of pain belied by his emotional reticence. Some of the author’s best writing in the book—his prose is consistently sharp and illustrative—describes Harry’s quiet torment. Consider this passage that eloquently captures the traumatic fallout of his mother’s debilitating illness: “Harry had felt his father shrink from the stealth of Emilia’s decay, from her no longer knowing who is me and who is them and who is us. They would come upon Emilia rehearsing her life from a list she’d written on a piece of paper.” And while the plot flirts with implausibility, given the introduction of an unlikely coincidence that weaves Emilia into Harry’s investigation of the crime, it remains grippingly suspenseful. In addition, Krishtalka provides a scathing peek into the venal corridors of academic life and its petty power struggles over professional status. Fulbright emerges as a tantalizingly complex figure, capable of grotesque displays of immorality, but still moved by a principled attachment to the truth, a commitment sometimes interred under the small-minded squabbles of scholarly life. The author provides the best this genre has to offer: a riveting exploration of a crime blended with a deeply stirring examination of human nature. A cinematically immersive murder mystery deftly combined with an intellectual drama.