Book Review: Zagreb Cowboy A Marko Della Torre Novel by Alen Mattich

16027906Title: Zagreb Cowboy: A Marko Della Torre Novel

Author: Alen Mattich

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Spiderline

Published: September 13, 2012

Page Amount: 384 pages

Blurb From Goodreads: Yugoslavia, 1991. The State is crumbling, and in the midst of the political chaos secret policeman Marko della Torre has been working both sides of the law — but somewhere along the way he’s crossed the line. When a corrupt cop called Strumbic helps three hired Bosnian thugs to hunt him down and kill him, della Torre makes a run for it through Croatia, Italy, and finally to London, where he’ll take Strumbic for all he’s worth. A page-turning thriller shot through with black humour and razor-sharp dialogue, Zagreb Cowboy is the spectacular debut novel in a taut new crime fiction series.

Why Read: Funnily enough, I read the third book in this trilogy quite some time ago. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had somehow skipped books one and two. As I was lazily scrolling through my Goodreads TBR, I couln’t help but notice that Book One was still on there. I do love Yugoslavia after all… and anything that has to do with murder, corruption and conspiracy has my attention without even trying. So? Was there a question that I wanted to read this?

Review: If I had to choose a word to describe my emotions after finishing this book: it might be ‘content’. In no way does this mean that the book gave me the ending that I wanted, it actually has quite the opposite effect. Nevertheless, I found myself pleased. Mattich writes with a spring in his step as he describes the terrible state that Yugoslavia found itself in after the death of Tito. What does a secret police agency do when the country is tearing itself apart and orders from Croatia, Bosnia and Belgrade are more mixed up than the letters in a scrabble bag?

The answer is: nothing at all. Marko Della Torre is one of the good guys… minus when he sells information to his corrupt friend Stumbic. When you add Bosnian hitmen to the equation without an understanding of who hired them and why – it only gets more complicated. When Marko is framed for shooting Strumbic (which technically he did), he flees the country since obviously someone wants him dead. After a wild goose chase, Marko finds himself avoiding the secret police and trying to vaguely discover what it is about the Pilgrim file that has someone trying to kill him.

“I see this has only half a tank of petrol. Any chance of topping it up as a way of thanking agod?” 

“I’d love to but I’m an athetist. Good Communisty upbringing.”

That is by far one of my favorite quotes from the novel. Mattich has a dry humor when dealing with Marko and there are so many gems thrown into the text that I was torn when attempting to find one that gave the best hint of his style. You’ll find yourself finished with the book before you know what to do with yourself and before long – the next one will be in your hands. As someone who has read further down the line, expect the intrigue to get steamier and significantly more dangerous. It’s civil war in Yugoslavia, and the stakes only continue to rise.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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