Vyleta, Dan. Pavel & I. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Feb 2008. c. 304p. ISBN 978-1-59691-451-3. $24.95. Fiction.
The son of Czech refugees who immigrated to Germany in the late 1960s, Berlin-based Vyleta sets his debut in Berlin in the terrible winter of 1946-47. His narrator Petersen, the “I” of the title, is a freelance torturer for an obese British colonel named Fosko. When an American grifter dumps the body of a dead midget on Pavel Richter and is killed soon after, Pavel attracts the attention of the colonel. Apparently, the midget was a spy for General Karpov of the Soviet NKVD (secret police) and had in his possession “merchandise” of interest to all. But just who is Pavel? He appears to be simply an ex-GI, an American who abandoned his wife in the States and lives in squalid conditions with Anders, a 12-year-old orphan. Pavel, a quiet scholar at heart, and Anders are soon forced to turn for help to Sonia, a prostitute who has just moved in upstairs. In the midst of these entangled lives and against a noirish backdrop of starvation and ghastly cold lies many a mystery. But the mysteries themselves–and the details of plot–are far less interesting than the characters, whose unusual lives are explored with masterful depth. Recommended for larger public libraries.