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blumen für polt

26 may 2018

Blumen für Polt is the second in Alfred Komarek's low-key series of Austrian Krimis that begins with Polt muß weinen.

Again we are in wine country on the Czech-Austrian border, around the turn of the millennium. Again, our protagonist is the brooding, sensitive Simon Polt – though he is drinking less than he did in his first installment. Perhaps his relative sobriety is thanks to the influence of Karin Walter, the village schoolteacher he'd struck sparks with in Polt muß weinen. But even if Simon is laying off the sauce in hopes of deserving Karin, his clearheadedness doesn't help him tell her how he feels, so once again any relationship keeps getting deferred.

Two deaths provide Polt with cases, though they are so commonplace that the authorities don't have much interest in them, and he pursues them as much privately as in the line of duty. Polt's mentally disabled friend Willi has died suddenly, perhaps of a simple heart attack. A notorious insurance fraudster has run his moped under a car driven by an intoxicated senior citizen – the last time he'll ever try to bilk a driver that way.

But something doesn't sit right with Polt in both instances. His suspicions are heightened by kids in the community who are acting strangely. Two insouciant young adults are committing various low-level forms of mayhem, and four schoolkids – Karin Walter's pupils – have sworn a musketeerish pact to keep some big secrets from the grownups.

In the end, the solution to these mild mysteries is not believable, in my opinion. Part of the problem with realism in Komarek's fiction is that his border community is at once too tiny and too large: everybody knows everybody else's business intimately in this little place where Polt can cover his entire beat easily on his bicycle; but at the same time, characters and their histories can remain curiously anonymous for decades.

But if the stories strain credulity, the people and relationships in the Polt novels, right down to Simon's cat Czernohorsky, ring true: and that's all one really wants from any fiction.

Komarek, Alfred. Blumen für Polt. 2000. Innsbruck: Haymon, 2013.