It is very rare that I am taken so quickly by the setting of a novel. The history and people of Hungary and specifically Budapest are related with clarity and great interest in Adam LeBor’s District VIII. The novel is a detective-driven conspiracy thriller that takes place in the city of two million, which is teaming with immigrants trying to make their way to western Europe. But the borders have been shut, trapping these people in horrible conditions. Budapest is a city at the crossroads between east and west with government officials looking for capital from anyone willing to make the right deal.
In the middle of this crisis, there is an immigrant murdered, a suspected ISIS terrorist on the loose, and government-issued passports being sold on the back market to the highest bidder. Enter murder squad detective and gypsy Balthazar Kovacs and his many contacts: his reporter ex, his gypsy clan-leading brother, and a mysterious ally sending him tips. Detective Kovacs is unique as a gypsy police officer, and he’s able to use this fact to move between but never really belong to these two worlds. Kovacs must use all his resources to discover and track down the killer, and find out exactly how high the conspiracy goes.
LeBor’s character development is excellent; each player is deftly tied to national and international history. Kovacs is an especially good character and my hope is that LeBor is not finished with him. He is a complex character who needs another case to solve.
Overall, I recommend this one to those looking to learn more about a new location with a great serpentine plot.
5 out of 5 stars
Releases June 5th, 2018.
Many thanks to NetGalley, Pegasus Books, and Mr. LeBor for the advanced copy for review.