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The Small Boat of Great Sorrows
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2004
This is the first book I've read by this author and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The plot was interesting - an ex-policeman from Bosnia living in Berlin is recruited to help arrest an old Croatian accused of war crimes in WWII. Vlado Patric discovers there is more to the case than meets the eye. Somebody seems to be manipulating things behind the scenes but who and why? The story is well-written and holds the readers attention all the way through. The characters are interesting and intriguing in every sense of the word. I really enjoyed this book and will looking out for others by the same author.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2005
This sequel to Fesperman's excellent award-winning debut (Lie in the Dark) picks up Vlado Petric's story five years later, in 1998. We find the former Bosnian policeman in Berlin, where he was reunited with his wife and daughter, and has been working menial construction jobs. In a somewhat heavy-handed prologue, Vlado and his Polish construction mate unearth an old Nazi bunker while digging a trench. This serves notice to the reader that even as the foundation for a new Europe is being laid, the ugly past is always lurking just below the surface. Get it? In a more affecting early part of the story, we learn that Vlado's reuniting with his family (following the events of Lie in the Dark) was not quite the stuff of fairy tales. This ties in to a subplot in which he becomes entangled with a pair of fellow countrymen who swear to have seen a war criminal nearby. This leads him down an unlikely and unnecessary subplot, which links all too conveniently to the main story.
Things really gets going when an American lawyer working for the International War Crimes Tribunal offers Vlado a job as part of a team trying to capture a Croatian war criminal from World War II. This is all part of another unlikely and overly complicated scheme to swap him to the French if they arrest a Serbian war criminal from the more recent fighting. The carrot of a visit home and a possible job are dangled in front of him, and of course he accepts. The trip to Bosnia becomes wildly complicated and dangerous, unfortunately, the pitfalls are obvious to the reader well ahead of Vlado and his handler. The story continues in Rome, and veers into even more wild territory, as dark secrets from WWII hold the power to do significant harm even now. Fesperman's plotting draws upon various real events (the theft of gold from the Croatian treasury, the involvement of Catholic priests in helping war criminals gain new identities, etc.), but it rarely feels plausible.
Fesperman's strength lies in depicting modern Bosnia and the effects of the war upon its people. The book is at its most effective when focusing on Vlado and his family's life as refugees in Germany, or in showing Sarajevo recovering from the war. Unfortunately, most of the book deals in the past and ends up feeling like a Ken Follett or Robert Ludlum thriller. It's not bad, just not as distinctive as Lie in the Dark, but I'll definitely read the next installment in Vlado's story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I thoroughly enjoyed this pacey and exciting thriller/mystery. The genre is one that is full of clones and repeats, but The Small Boat of Great Sorrows combines strands of history I haven't come across before. The hero is a Bosnian ex-Police officer living as an exiled, poorly-paid manual labourer in Berlin. The surface of the book is consumed by that recent, bloody conflict, but the meat of the mystery harks back to the shards of the second world war. Fesperman skillfully weaves the plot so past and present collide driven by the selfish actions of individuals and institutions. Family relationships, professional rivalries and an almost Kafka-esque sense of the individual sucked powerless into greater events is all handled convincingly and the moral dimension is explored in an interesting way.
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on 1 August 2014
Oh dear!
I am not quite halfway through this book and that's as far as I'm going to go.
There is a plot and it's possibly a good one, BUT
the writing style is grim: it appears to have been dictated without editing; it would not challenge a thirteen year old.
there is endless banal conversation that goes nowhere and reveals little
all the characters are the same
it is not quite devoid of suspense, but pretty close
it moves at a deadly slow pace: punchy it ain't.
I bought this because it won a prestigious prize and am disappointed, not least because the man CAN write well.
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on 5 December 2008
I thought this was an improvement on Fesperman's previous book, Lie in the Dark, that also features the Bosnian detective, Vlado Petric.

I found this one more involving, and more fascinating, dealing with the Balkan conflict, WWII, a weary investigator and a naive American dipolomat.

Too many thrillers have the same old characters, but Petric adds something new to the genre, and placing it in such a volatile environment, not often written about, sets it apart from the rest.

Well paced and well thought out.

(More Vlado Petric please, Mr Fesperman!)
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on 13 February 2015
good service 100\100
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