ie in the Dark is the first novel by Dan Fesperman. He was a journalist who
spent time covering the Bosnia war, and his background shows in this fine first novel. Lie in the Dark
is the story of Vlado Petric - a man serving as a homicide detective in Sarajeveo during the conflict. Vlado
appreciates the dark irony of his job - trying to solve murders while every day Serbian snipers murder his
fellow citizens. Nevertheless, the detective job keeps Vlado, an able-bodied middle aged man, from being
sent to the front lines to battle the Serb forces .
The best part of this novel is the setting itself. Fesperman's experience in Yugoslavia during
the war allows him to paint a bleak, authentic picture of the war zone. The protagonist Petric awakens in the
morning to see the grave diggers outside his window. Cigarettes and food are currency, women sell their bodies
to survive another day, the powerful, corrupt warlords use their force to loot and extort. Everything must be
purchased from the black market. Sarajeveo is not just
under seige from the Serb snipers and artillery, it also under assault by it's own criminal element.
Detective Petric is walking home one night when he hears a nearby shot. He runs to the scene and
finds a dead man. But this isn't just any corpse, it is Esmir Vitas, the chief of the Ministry of Special Police. Clearly, the
death was staged to appear to be just another casuality by random sniper bullet, except that Petric knows there
wasn't any sniper fire - this was a murder.
At first, it appears that Vitas death will be covered up, but then Petric is assigned to the case
and told to report his progress frequently to Juso Kasic, the new acting head of the Ministry of the Special Police.
Kasic obviously had plenty of reasons for wanting Vitas dead, but no he tells Petric to devote his abilities to solving
this crime. The menace radiating from Kasic is well done.
Petric begins his investigation, and he quickly learns that Vitas was involved in some routine smuggling
crimes of meat and tobacco. Clearly, Petric was meant to discover these transgressions, but he believes there is more to
the reason Vitas was murdered, so he investigates further, and starts to uncover a larger conspiracy.
Like I said, the best part of the book is the tour of Saravejeo. Petric has to interview a criminal who is
now serving on the frontlines against the Serbs - which are just outside the city. So Petric has to join a nightly contingent
of young man who march out at night to take their places in the trenches in exchange for food and money. In another section,
Petric has to borrow a car with it's precious gallons of gas to cross over to another part of the city that is even worse
off than his area.
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good first novel. I will probably pick up other books by Fesperman (I see
he has written at least four others) if I see them at the library.