Cover Image: Laid in Earth

Laid in Earth

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Member Reviews

Our sixth outing with the always entertaining Josef Slonsky and it is just as much fun as the previous five books. 

Slonsky has more members in his team now and they are all required to work the latest case which is a real puzzler. First they find a body buried in a flower bed and then discover there has been a body there before it which has been meticulously removed. A lot of clever detective work takes place to solve the crime and danger comes perilously close to Slonsky's team.

Every few paragraphs Josef stops for sustenance. A pastry here, a sausage there and plenty of glasses of beer. He seems to think best when he is eating and always makes sure he is well fuelled before going out. His character is larger than life and constantly entertaining. He has just managed (fraudulently) to extend the time he has before retirement by two years so hopefully the author is planning a few more books yet!
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Slonsky knew that the Red House had many secrets and now it looks like it is about to reveal some of them. But who would have wanted this woman dead and who was buried in the ground originally. Slonsky knows that this new case isn't going to be easy as the government doesn't want the past brought up. He knows that he will need his friend Valentin help as he is a journalist that will find out more about the Red House as he is certain that someone died there and that is who was buried in the garden. But nothing is that easy and Slonsky knows that it won't be as easy as finding the killer and closing the case. The case takes a turn when the father of the dead woman takes matters into his own hands and now Slonsky and his team will need to find out who was buried in that hole before the old man finds them. But the past isn't about to tell her tales but they will have no choice but to dig down into the past. General Rezek worked at the Red House and he was feared and they have been many stories of his methods used to get what he wanted and Slonsky knows that he had something to do with the bodies in the garden they just need to find the truth before it is too late. Will Slonsky be able to find the truth and give peace to the dead? A good read. I was lucky enough to receive a copy via Netgalley & the publishing house in exchange for my honest review.
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Captain Josef Slonský and his team are given a new murder case.  A woman’s body is found in a flower bed on the grounds of the Red House, a building used by state security during the Communist regime. It makes no sense that a body would be buried here, until another body is discovered deeper in the flower bed. Now it’s up to Slonský to find out if the two bodies are connected and if the Red House is keeping more secrets that could help him solve these baffling crimes. 

“Laid in Earth” is the sixth book in this series. I have read all of  the prior books and have enjoyed them all. Fortunately, enough information is provided in the early chapters that new readers will know everything they need to about Slonský and his colleagues even if this is their introduction to the series. So much has changed for Slonský  since this series began. He has always been a dedicated police officer, but he used to keep to himself, with the exception of a couple of friends, and had a hard time keeping a partner. Now he has been promoted to captain and is successfully leading a team of four.  Slonský is not the typical leader since to him, fighting crime requires large quantities of sausage, beer, and wisecracks, but it works. Even with the two new additions to the team, everyone gets along well and each person has their own strengths.  Each book has a few surprises to keep things fresh, and I like the developments that unfold in this installment. 

The murders being investigated are intriguing and give a close-up look at some of the atrocities which occurred in Prague when it was under Communist rule. I love the history in these books as well as the information about the modern-day Czech Republic. This book and the whole series deals with serious subjects, but those topics are balanced with plenty of dry, dark humor throughout the book. Before the case wraps up, there are so tense moments with more than one main character landing in a perilous situation. There are some scary scenes but I like the way things turn out. There are some touching scenes between Slonský and Navrátil, and I also like how Kristýna and Lucie  are beginning to support each other on the job. “Laid in Earth” is another excellent installment in this well-written, entertaining series and as always, I am already looking forward to the next book!

I received this book from NetGalley through the courtesy of Sapere Books. The book was provided to me in exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 stars

In this 6th book in the 'Josef Slonský Investigations' series, the Czech cop has a complex case on his hands. The book can be read as a standalone.

*****
Up until 1990 'The Red House' in Prague was used as an interrogation center by the StB - the Communist secret police in the former Czechoslovakia. Arrestees brought to The Red House for questioning were beaten and tortured, and recalcitrant detainees were sometimes placed in a one square meter room "that could be filled with the contents of the bath and toilets above."🥵 With this kind of treatment, it's not surprising that the occasional prisoner died. That's the premise at the center of this story.

In current times, The Red House is used as a teacher training facility, and the grounds are tended by a gardener named Hanuš Himl. When Himl notices something odd about a plant bed he's been preparing, a word to Police Captain Josef Slonský leads to the discovery of a woman's body. What's more, it appears that previous remains were removed to make space for the dead woman, and only a finger bone of the first victim is left. 

Slonský thinks the first fatality was a casualty of the communist era, and the woman's murder was probably an act of revenge. To identify the current killer, Slonský needs to figure out who the original victim was.....which is very tricky without a body. 

Both unlawful deaths - the one that occurred decades ago and the new one - are probed by Slonský's team, which is led by veteran detectives Lieutenant Kristýna Peiperová and Lieutenant Jan Navrátil. Also on board are newbie officers Ivo Krob and Lucie Jernaková. As usual, Slonský also gets assistance from Desk Sergeant Mucha - who has an uncanny ability to locate files.....even hidden communist ones; and journalist Valentin - whose contacts and newspaper archives are useful. 

As the investigation proceeds things get more complicated, especially when the cops delve into incidents that occurred long ago. Dark secrets of the communist era emerge, and officers from that era are questioned.

During the inquries, Slonský's mentee Navrátil comes up with a LOT of good ideas, and Slonský prides himself on being such a great instructor. 

As always, Slonský keeps up his strength with frequent snacks of beer and sausage/ham rolls or coffee and pastries, and these scenes are a nice break from the more serious parts of the story.

Slonský's sarcastic - but good-natured - repartee with the pathologist Dr. Novak also draws a few smiles.

Novak: "It's a woman."
Slonský: "I guessed that. The bright red nail polish put me onto it."
Novak: "See? You're not a detective for nothing."

In the private lives of the detectives, Jernaková - who's had a difficult life - is happy to finally have a good job and a place to live; Krob and his wife are expecting a baby; and Peiperová and Navrátil are engaged. 

As the wedding day approaches Slonský has to decide on a wedding gift, and he consults Dumpy Anna - the cook at the police canteen. Anna responds, "If you'll take my advice, the usual thing is rubbish. It's something they'll never use like an egg boiler or a fondue set. What they need is a good boot scraper." In the end, Slonský comes up with a great idea of his own. (Though a boot scraper is quite useful IMO. 😊)

The story builds to an exciting climax, and I feared for the lives of Slonsky's intrepid crew. 

I like this series, and recommend it to mystery fans. 

Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Graham Brack), and the publisher (Sapere Books) for a copy of the book.
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Laid In Earth is the 6th mystery in the Josef Slonský procedural series by Graham Brack. Released 25th Nov 2019 from Sapere books, it's 217 pages and available in ebook format.

This is an exceptionally well written and engaging read. I was previously unfamiliar with the author and hadn't read any of the earlier books in the series and had no trouble following the story or keeping the characters straight. I admit I struggled with some of the names (they're Czech), but the author is very adept at making the more important primary characters distinct enough that it wasn't a problem. The plot is intricate and very well constructed. I found the discussion of the cold war era really interesting and it seemed to be very well researched and believable. For a book written around a sometimes brutal and dark political period, I was surprised and delighted with the amount of humor. There were several places in the dialogue which surprised a giggle out of me (not easy to do). Captain Slonský himself is likable, loyal, honest, and intelligent. It was engaging to watch him and his team follow the disparate fragile threads to the resolution.

The language is relatively clean (PG rated, a few damns and bloodies, nothing worse). There is no graphic violence.

The ebook version includes an interactive table of contents. I've grown very fond of books with interactive content lately. Possibly worth noting for Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book (and the others in the series) are included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. It's always fun to find a new to me author and series to read. I would recommend this one to fans of procedurals. I'm looking forward to more from this author.

One of the better reads I've enjoyed this year. Five stars. I shall read the earlier books very soon.
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Hanus Himl, gardener in a municipal park discovers a body in one of the flower beds. But this dead woman was not the only body dumped in there, as there are traces of a body having been once under her. But why would someone dump a body and remove the previous one. Especially in what was the notorious Red House, location of the StB (the Prague old security force). Captain Josef Slonsky and his newly expanded team investigate.
Another delightful and well-written, and well-paced story in this series with its hints of humour. The story certainly holds your attention to the end.
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A landscaper sees Captain Slonsky at his favorite bar and informs him that there is something wrong with the flower garden he's been preparing for plants.

When Slonksy takes a look himself, he finds a dead woman buried there... and she's not the only body dumped in the grave. Decomposed body bits point to a corpse has been there for many years.

The burial site is on the grounds on what was once called the Red House.The Red House looks like a guest house but it was once the interrogation center for the state's security force. Otherwise, known as a torture house when Communism was in charge, circa 1989.

When the newest body is identified, Slonsky learns that her father was once a General in the Red House.  Coincidence?

Are the two bodies connected, even though they were killed more than 20 years apart?

This is the 6th outing for now Captain Slonsky and is easily read as a stand alone. Slonsky is an unforgettable character .... he's overweight, loves his beer and sausages and spends more time in bars than anywhere else. His mind is quite brilliant and he's a dogged searcher of justice. But beware his black humor .... he will make you smile, and then pierce you with a jab. Love him or hate him ... he's someone not easily forgotten.

Now that he's made Captain, he now has four team members. Two of them are fixtures from the previous books ... two of them are new and still learning the ropes. They all bring something with them to help solve cases, and Slonsky has no problem letting them run with their gut feelings. If they run into problems ... they know where to find him ... with beer and sausage in hand.

This is a nicely paced murder mystery with a few twists and turns along the way and a surprising ending. Keeping fingers crossed I have not seen the end of Captain Slonsky .. he would be sorely missed.

Many thanks to the author / Sapere Books / Netgalley for the digital copy of this crime fiction/mystery. Read and reviewed voluntarily, opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.
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Batten the hatches & hide the pastries......he's back. That would be Capt. Josef Slonský, Prague's most fearless crime fighter. In this outing he & his team catch a murder case with roots in the country's dark communist past.

Hanuš Himl is a gardener with a problem & who better to consult than his drinking pal, Slonský. He was working on the grounds of a building with an infamous past when he noticed one of the flower beds had been disturbed. One might almost think something had been buried. Maybe his friend could take a look.

Slonský knows the address well but isn't prepared for what he finds. Initially it's a case of right grave, wrong body. But things escalate when they discover the flowers beds are a bit...um...crowded.

Right. Time to assemble the team. New to the squad are Officers Ivo Krob & Lucie Jernaková. Returning characters include Slonský's long suffering righthand man Lt. Jan Navrátil & his fianceé Lt. Kristýna Peiperová as well as various others who add colour & humour to the story. It'll take a collective effort to crack this one as it heads off in mysterious directions. And for Slonský it will dredge up memories of his days as a young cop on a very different police force.

This series is on my list of go-to reads. The books are consistently entertaining with great mysteries to pick at while the dialogue & characters keep you smiling. Their relationships are the core of each story & new additions keep things fresh. My only complaint is I'm left with a strange craving for sausages, preferably in a cafe in Prague.
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‘That man Slonský was the answer.  He would know what to do for the best.’

A municipal gardener notices that one of his garden beds at the teacher training college in Prague doesn’t look right.  So, he approaches Captain Josef Slonský.  A woman’s body is discovered, but there are signs that another body was previously buried in the same place. Captain Slonský will need everyone of his expanded team of four to get to the bottom of this case.

‘Cause of death?  ‘She stopped breathing.’

Who is this woman?  Who killed her?  And why was her body buried in the grounds of what was once the infamous Red House – a building used by the state security force before the fall of the Communist regime?  And whose body was previously buried there, and where is it now?  Is there a connection between the two 
bodies?  Could there be more bodies buried here?

Captain Slonský will need plenty of food to fuel his thinking to solve this case.  Fortunately, there are plenty of places to serve him beer, coffee and (or) pastries. Captain Slonský explains to his younger colleagues that the Red House was used for StB (security force) interrogations during the Communist era.  This means, he tells them, that not all missing people were reported: some were executed, others had escaped the country.  So, with his expanded team: newly promoted Lieutenants Kristýna Peiperová and Jan Navrátil and Officers Lucie Jerneková and Ivo Krob,  Slonský sets to work.

Information isn’t easy to come by, but Slonský is resourceful.  Sergeant Mucha provides valuable assistance, as does the journalist Valentin.  Slonský manages to solve a few other worrying issues along the way: trying to forestall his imminent retirement as well as working out what to get Kristýna Peiperová and Jan Navrátil as a wedding present.

I really enjoy the black humour in this series.  And I especially like Slonský’s dialogue with Dr Novak:

‘But you’ll have to be patient, Slonský. They’re going to be digging very slowly to ensure that they don’t disturb any evidence. Why don’t you go away for a while and I’ll call you when we’ve finished?’

‘I could have a little something to eat,’ Slonský mused.

‘Good idea.’

‘Just to clarify, is this a coffee-and-pastry going away, or a sausage-and-potatoes followed by a piece of cake going away?’

‘I’ve seen how fast you can put a couple of sausages away.  We’re talking hours, Slonský.’

As the team investigates, parts of the puzzle are uncovered, and answers become evident.  But it won’t be easy...

I love this series.  Captain Josef Slonský (and his team) have me laughing out loud, and then worrying about what might happen next.   I am looking forward to more stories.  I do hope Josef Slonský doesn’t retire for a while.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Sapere Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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With his diet slipping and his penchant for Czech beer and pastries ever-growing, Captain Josef Slonský is back to his old ways. Except now he has four officers in his team to manage the usual members Navrátil and Peiperová planning their wedding and two new additions, Krob and Jerneková, are introduced. The extra manpower is welcome when a complex case lands in his lap. A dead woman is found buried in a flower bed. 
Decomposed bone fragments point to a corpse that has been there a lot longer. And the burial site isn’t any ordinary flower bed. It’s in the grounds of the Red House – a building used by state security in the years before the fall of the Communism regime.
Well written fast paced with great characters. I love Slonsky & he’s fast becoming one of my favourite detectives. There are of course twists & turns along the way but it’s the humour, which raise the book & the series above the norm. I highly recommend both this book & the whole series
 My honest review is for a special copy I voluntarily read
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As enjoyable as the rest of the series. Slonsky is a refreshing break from the normal run of the mill detective stories with some interesting characters. Just what you need when you want to relax and unwind
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Laid in Earth is the sixth book in the Josef Slonsky series by Graham Brack and it is another excellent crime novel set in Prague.

All the main characters are back and the story flows along at a good pace keeping you turning the pages

Definitely recommended
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I found the setting and story interesting when I requested this book. Wow. I was not dissapointed. It was one of the most pleasant surprises in a long time. I really love the characters and the environment where this great mystery takes place. I must thank #SapereBooks and #Netgalley for making it available to me and of course Graham Brack for writing this wonderful book. I have allready bought books one through five to get more of Josef  Slonský. Higly recommended.
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Thank you NetGalley and Sapere Books for this arc.

Slonsky is BACK!  Oh Happy Day!! 

Graham Brack has done it again.  This series just keeps getting better in my opinion.  The mystery was a rather slow one as the team has come across a new body that was buried over/in place of a much older one (which was removed)….   The team was forced into digging into spotty records from the old StB Security Service … suspect at best … while trying to locate any still living members to pick their brains to find out who the old body might have been and who might have a reason for unearthing it some 30 plus years after the fact to replace it with their current "new" dead body.   There were the usual breaks for pastries and beer.  The team has expanded wonderfully with the addition of Lucie and Ivo.  Kristyna and Jan finally managed to tie the knot and Josef was their best man!   Oh, and he managed to put off his retirement another two years.  Which is great news!
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“’…you’ll have to be patient, Slonský. They’re going to be digging very slowly to ensure that they don’t disturb any evidence. Why don’t you go away for a while and I’ll call you when we’ve finished?’
‘I could have a little something to eat,’ Slonský mused. 
‘Good idea.’
‘Just to clarify, is this a coffee-and-pastry going away, or a sausage-and-potatoes followed by a piece of cake going away?’”

Laid In Earth is the sixth book in the Josef Slonský Investigations series by British author, Graham Brack. A meticulous municipal gardener alerts Slonský to a puzzling case. An unidentified murder victim, recently buried in a flower bed, in the unmarked grave of a much earlier victim whose bones has been removed, all but part of a finger bone. 

The location, the notorious Red House, indicates that the missing body could well be a victim of an overzealous StB (dreaded security force) interrogation during the Communist regime. Slonský explains to his younger colleagues why, during that era, family and friends of those missing often didn’t draw attention to it: they might have been tortured and executed by the StB; but they might, instead, have successfully escaped the country.

The identity of the victims, the motive and the significance of the site are just a few of the numerous questions this strange case poses. Fortunately, Captain Slonský now has at his disposal an expanded team: newly promoted Lieutenants Kristýna Peiperová and Jan Navrátil have two very capable subordinate Officers, Lucie Jerneková and Ivo Krob, to supervise, and themselves continue to show much initiative. And after almost two years with him, Navrátil is wise to some of Slonský more annoying tricks.

Investigating matters from that era, though, can prove to be a challenge because, despite Desk Sergeant Mucha’s considerable prowess at locating and accessing elusive files (“If you know a file exists, you’re probably entitled to see it”), there is a good chance that evidence of certain StB activities no longer exists. But Slonský and his contemporaries have the benefit of experience, while the younger members of the team are enthusiastic and resourceful. As they need to be, by the time the heart-stopping climax arrives.

Dreading retirement, Slonský surreptitiously takes steps to give himself two extra years at work, although when he is finally forced to go, he can do so confident that “people like Navrátil and Peiperová would make the police service what it was meant to be. He genuinely believed that Navrátil could one day be the Director of Police — if Peiperová didn’t beat him to it.” With their wedding imminent, Slonský racks his brains for a decent gift, and manages to come up with something unique, useful and thoughtful: a gift that is indeed appreciated by the couple. 

Brack often gives his characters shrewd observations: of the Red House, Navrátil remarked ‘It looks so ordinary.’ ‘Evil often does,’ Slonský replied. ‘If you look at a gallery of serial killers, they resemble people you’d meet in a post office.’ Brack seamlessly includes quite a bit of Communist-era history in manageable bites, and adds extra authenticity with little touches like Slonský’s mother’s comment (sounding very much like it could be an old Czech turn of phrase): “if he was hanged for patience, he’d die innocent”. 

As always, Slonský’s verbal sparring with Dr Novak and his banter with Valentin in the bar, Dumpy Anna in the canteen and Mucha at the station are a rich source of dry (and sometimes, black) humour so, as usual, best not read in the Quiet Carriage on public transport to avoid disturbing other commuters with inevitable snickers, chuckles and laughing-out-loud. Readers may also find it difficult to refrain from reading out the many choice bits to those around them. Readers can only hope that Brack has more of Slonský up his sleeve. 
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Sapere Books
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To my delight, Graham Brack takes us back to the Czech Republic and Prague in the latest addition to this warm hearted, humorous Captain Josef Slonsky crime series and a story that takes us back to the bad old days of the Communist regime in the early 1970s and the StB, the state security service that operated at that time. Alerted by a gardener suspicious of earth tilled over on a flowerbed at The Red House, once an interrogation centre for the StB, Slonsky discovers the body of a recently murdered woman. What is more of a surprise is that decomposed bone fragments suggests that another, older corpse had been buried in the same place, but those remains have been removed. Is it possible there are other bodies buried on the grounds from the same historical period?

This complex investigation is worked by Slonsky's now expanded team as they delve into the still sensitive past of a state security service that tortured and killed with impunity at a time when people had to follow orders or else. Times are different now, but records of the past are not that easy to come by, so much was destroyed when the regime collapsed, and identifying the woman murdered takes some time. With so little to go on, Slonsky works on the theory that there is a connection between the dead woman and the older, dead male corpse. In a case that does little to stop Slonsky's partaking of his beloved pastries and visits to bars for the necessary beer and gain valuable information from the likes of Valentin, his journalist friend and others, Slonsky's hunch about the connections between the older dead bodies and the more recent murder proves to be all too correct, where the past brings deadly danger to his team.

Lieutenants Jan Navrotil and Kristyna Peiperova plans for their wedding are well underway, both candidates, as far as Slonsky is concerned, for the highest levels of policing in the future. The new additions to the team, Officers Ivo Krob and Lucie Jernekova are working out well, with Jernekova proving her worth in testing circumstances in the finale and being described as a female version of Slonsky himself. Slonsky is surprised to discover just how far Navrotil has come on, a man with good ideas and willing to challenge him with a growing sense of authority, putting pressure on Slonsky to raise his game. This is a wonderful addition to the series, raising the Czech Republic's traumatic past, dealt with sensitively by Brack, whilst illustrating the repercussions of how that history continues to affect the present. If you enjoy well written and highly amusing crime fiction, then I highly recommend both this and the series. I am eagerly looking forward to my next visit to the historic city of Prague. Many thanks to Sapere Books for an ARC.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Sapere Books for an advance copy of Laid in Earth, the sixth novel to feature Captain Josef Slonsky of the Prague Police.

Slonsky is interested when the gardener at the teacher training college contacts him to say there is something wrong with one of his flowerbeds. A little digging not only uncovers a body but evidence of a previous burial although the bones are missing. To make matters more intriguing the building and grounds used to be known as the Red House, the infamous home of State Security during the Communist era.

I thoroughly enjoyed Laid in Earth which has a good premise and also made me laugh out loud on several occasions. It held my attention throughout and I read it in one sitting. The initial premise is intriguing with one body present and an older one missing and presents plenty of room for theorising and speculation although, as ever in these novels, the roots of the crime lie buried in the Communist era past. This is fertile ground for the author as he uses some of its absurdities for humour (and it can be very funny) and some of repressiveness for a history lesson (which is not funny in the slightest although Slonsky can often find an angle for ridicule). Younger readers might take it all with a pinch of salt but for us older readers it has a horrifying ring of truth to it.

There is perhaps not as much mystery attached to the crime in this novel as in previous novels so the second half of the novel is more of a waiting game and filling in the blanks but the humour keeps the novel jogging along and the action packed almost finale injects the oomph. 

Much of the humour and warmth in the novel comes from Slonsky and his interactions with his tight knit team. The usual members are there with Navrátil and Peiperová planning their wedding and two new additions, Krob and Jerneková, are introduced. Despite himself Slonsky is becoming a leader of men (and women). He is one of my favourite fictional characters as his mixture of honesty, idealism and cynicism really appeals.

Laid in Earth is a fun read which I have no hesitation in recommending.
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