Reviewed by Timothy Niedermann
Greg Martens and Anne Rossiter, now Anne Martens, are back in Vienna, home of the Sachertorte pastry and the small milk-and-mocha coffee known as the kleiner Brauner. The last time they were here (in the first volume of the projected Twisted trilogy, Twisted Reasons) was to find out what happened to Greg’s friend Adam Kallay, an official with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) who had disappeared and was presumed dead. Anne, at the time, was with Interpol in Vienna, and working with Julia Saparova, a Russian who also worked with the IAEA.
Greg and Anne had plunged into the shadowy world of international arms dealing to try to recover stolen arms-grade uranium. Their mission was successful, marred only by confirmation of Adam’s death. Now Julia has disappeared, and Greg and Anne are summoned by Interpol from their idyllic Vermont home, back to the cultural splendour of the Austrian capital. But as before, the trail to find Julia inevitably leads to the dark alleys and shady nightclubs of Eastern Europe.
In this, the second volume of the Twisted trilogy, author Tatrallyay immerses us again into the murky criminal underworld of post-Soviet Russia, this time the business of sex trafficking. Nadia, a Russian teenager, thought she was travelling to Western Europe to find a job. Instead, she finds herself kidnapped, sexually abused, and forced to act as a stripper in a bar. Meanwhile her father, a guard at a Russian nuclear facility, is being blackmailed by Nadia’s captors to look the other way when a certain Julia Saparova arrives. So where is Julia and what is she up to? As the trails Greg and Anne are following begin to intertwine, old “friends” from Twisted Reasons reappear, back in the game of stealing uranium from a former Soviet nuclear site for sale to a mysterious client.
Nadia, meanwhile is destined to be auctioned off as a sex slave to one of several sleazy, but very wealthy criminal bosses. Without being gratuitously graphic, Tatrallyay does not hold back in his descriptions of the depravity of the men who enslave these young women for sale to the highest bidder. Well organized and vicious, they lead Greg and Anne on a tense cross-border chase from Vienna to a yacht on the shore of the Adriatic where the final auction is to take place.
Adding a parallel mystery is the story of Julia’s aunt Katerina, who disappeared in Soviet Russia in 1950 and was never heard of again. Rumours persist that she had been taken prisoner by none other than Lavrenti Beria, the perverted head of the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police.
Tatrallyay was born in Hungary and knows this part of the world well. He creates a vivid atmosphere through which he propels his characters at top speed, never letting the pace slacken or the suspense wane. Though there is less of a history lesson in this book than in the first, Tatrallyay does dip into the real past to give his plot depth. This is welcome and reflects the sensation one often feels in Europe, that the past still has its hand, whether nurturing or threatening, on the shoulder of the present.
Twisted Traffick is published by Black Opal Books.