BY: GEZA TATRALLYAY
Crime novelist, Greg Martens, and his wife, former Interpol agent Anne Rossiter, are once again called back to Vienna by Anne’s former boss at Interpol because Julia Saparova has disappeared a second time. Afraid that the same evil men, Sergei and Boris Polyakov, Julia’s own cousins, are behind her disappearance, Greg and Anne reenter the seedy underworld of the Russian mafia, sex-trafficking, black market arms dealing, and international terrorism, in hopes of rescuing Julia. But this time, their enemies are expecting them, and Anne stumbles into a trap, joining Julia in depraved captivity. Now the two women’s only hope is that Greg and their friends in Interpol can locate and rescue them before it’s too late—not only for them, but for the world at large…
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Twisted Fates by Geza Tatrallyay, Greg Martens and his wife Anne are once again on a mission to rescue their friend Julia from the clutches of her evil cousins, powerful Russian men with ties to the underworld. Kidnapped and brutalized, Julia’s only hope is that Greg and Anne can find and rescue her. But things do not go as planned, and soon Anne has been captured as well. Now it is up to Greg and his friends at Interpol to locate them before the two women disappear forever.
Intense, suspenseful, intriguing, and fast paced, this is an excellent addition/conclusion to the trilogy. Once you pick it up, you will have a hard time putting it down. A really good read.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Twisted Fates by Geza Tatrallyay is the third and final book in his “Twisted” trilogy, the story of three friends and their struggle to bring an evil man and his associates to justice. Greg Marten, his wife Anne, and their Russian friend Julia Saparova have tangled more than once with Sergei Polyakov, a Russian arms dealer and human trafficker, who has kidnapped Julia more than once, since part of her job is to monitor nuclear material at various sites in Russia. Sergei hopes to use Julia to steal nuclear material to sell to international terrorists. He has tried it before and failed, but this time he is determined to succeed, and he doesn’t care who he has to destroy to accomplish his goals.
Twisted Fates is down-to-earth, gritty, and very intense, definitely not for the faint of heart. I thought Tatrallyay handled the subject of the consequences of rape and brutality for the victims with both sensitivity and compassion, while still telling a realistic and compelling story. It will grab you by the throat.
Andrew put the book down and pulled one dangling leg up underneath him. Staring at Julia for a moment, the gangly fifteen-year-old asked, “Grandma, is it true? Were you really a stripper?”
The two were sitting on the porch of the family house in Vermont overlooking Lake Champlain in one direction and the beautiful Green Mountains in the other: he with one leg still hanging over the side into the flower garden teeming with Bee Bomb and Brown-Eyed Susan, she sitting in a white wicker rocking chair. The late afternoon sun reflected off the pond, bathing the two in its warm, golden glow.
Just then, Anne came through the door. “Mother, can I get you something? Greg is making your favorite drink. The Vermont Vertigo—”
“You know what your son asked me just now?” Julia asked, chuckling, instead of answering. “He asked if I really was a stripper in my youth, Anne! Imagine that—me, his grandmother.”
“Andrew!” Anne exclaimed, wanting to scold her son, but not finishing, since she knew that the question was legitimate, and she was not sure where she should go with it. Fortunately, she was rescued by the ringing of the phone inside.
“But that’s what Grandpa wrote in his book! That you danced and took your clothes off in that…that bar in…Vienna.”
“Mom, the phone.” Lily, Andrew’s sister, appeared in the doorway. “It’s for you. The Farmers’ Market…”
“Well, Andrew—” Left alone with her grandson, after a long silence Julia launched into an answer to his question. “—when I first came to the West from Russia, that was the only way I could support myself. I was an illegal immigrant in Austria. So, yes, I did some exotic dancing, as it was called.”
“What’s this? Grandma is telling you about her youth? Your grandmother certainly was a beautiful young lady,” Greg said with a smile, appearing through the screen door with two glasses of his signature concoction: one part maple syrup, two parts freshly squeezed lime juice, three parts dark rum, and lots of crushed ice. “She still is. And she certainly knew how to dance, she did.” He handed one of the drinks to Julia, taking a sip from the other. “Hmm. Very good, even if I do say so myself. But more than that, Andrew, she was a very smart lady, your grandma. And she worked very hard. She’s a nuclear physicist after all. The exotic dancing—that she did just to make enough to live on until she got a proper job.”
“And there was nothing more to it than that, I can assure you. I had a boyfriend then, you know.” And looking lovingly up at her husband, Julia added, “Your grandfather’s best friend, as a matter of fact.”
“Grandma!” Lily interjected, shocked, too, by these revelations. “So, you were a stripper, and then you ran off with Grandpa? And left his best friend.” It all seemed a little too much for the teenagers.
“Yes. It was my friend from school, Adam Kallay. He was Grandma’s boyfriend, way back then. But he—he died well before your grandmother and I got together,” Greg said, glancing at Julia. Adam and he had grown up together in Cleveland in Hungarian-American families that had known each other in the old country. They had shared a room at Harvard, fenced together for the college team, and Greg had tried to disentangle his friend from the first sordid nuclear heist affair when he went to visit him in Vienna several years earlier. He hoped the questions would end there.
But they did not. “How did this friend…this Adam Kallay…die?” Andrew asked, suspicions aroused.
“He was shot. In a heist. You know, some terrorists wanted to get their hands on some nuclear material.” Again, Greg hoped there would be no more questions. “It’s all in the book you’re reading, Andrew, Twisted Reasons. Right toward the end.”
“You will see that your grandpa and some other friends played a very important role in making sure the highly enriched uranium did not get into the wrong hands,” Julia explained. “He helped prevent a major atomic blast that could have killed several hundred thousand people. You should be very proud of him.”
“And your grandmother, too. She was involved as well.”
“I guess I need to finish the story, Grandpa,” Andrew said, overwhelmed and sullen, as he buried his head in the book again.
Julia gave Greg a loving smile as he sat down beside her and took her hand in his.
Greg was glad to be back in Vienna. The Imperial Capital was his favorite city: it held fond memories for him, but he also relished its vibrant and changing present. For one, this was where he had met and fallen in love with his beautiful wife, Anne, who was now sitting beside him in the cab from the airport, checking her emails after the two-hour morning flight from London where they had been visiting Anne’s brother after a three day stay with her parents in Cornwall.
Vienna was where he had first become entangled in the international intrigue that he had, after that—surprisingly to him—come to thrive on, and now, with his quiet academic life in Vermont, sorely missed. This was all in large part thanks to Anne, who had been working for Interpol at the time. But there were painful memories mixed in: the suspicion of, and disillusionment with, his erstwhile best friend, Adam Kallay, had started here. Yes, the messy first attempt by some Russian arms merchants to steal some nuclear material from Mayak—the former secret city where Stalin and Beria had developed the Soviet atomic bomb—that his friend had drawn him into. And that had ‘resulted’ in Adam’s death: Greg had never really told anyone how he had pulled the trigger of the pistol killing his friend as he was taunting him, ready to get away with enough highly enriched uranium for half a bomb.
On the positive side, yes, it was because of Adam that he had met Anne, who had been Kallay’s contact at Interpol. And also Julia Saparova, the beautiful physicist who had taken Adam’s job at the International Atomic Energy Agency, in charge of monitoring security at the former Soviet nuclear sites. In fact, Anne and he were really looking forward to spending some time with her over the weekend. She was flying back to give a report to the IAEA’s top brass, and when she had heard that they would be in Vienna, had made arrangements to stay in town. Although she had said on the phone that she normally liked to get back to Ozersk to spend her free days with her sick mother when work took her there.
Another positive: Vienna had been the source—directly or indirectly—of so much of the material for Greg’s writing ever since. In fact, his three most recent successes were all somehow linked to his times in Vienna. First had come the bestseller biography cum memoir about his Hungarian grandparents, András and Lily. Then Twisted Reasons, the story of the “Adam affair,” his second highly acclaimed ‘novel’ after Wintertime, the one he had written straight out of college. And most recently, Katerina, Beria’s Slave, the true story of Julia’s aunt, picked up by a major New York house. Just before leaving on this trip, he had finally finished and sent off to his publisher, Twisted Traffick, the next novel in the ‘Twisted’ trilogy: the story of human trafficking and the second heist attempt by those merchants of evil that he and Anne had helped foil. Twisted Fates would be the third book in the series, all of which were basically thrillers based on real life.
Thinking about the past—and really, the reason that he was back in the Imperial Capital this time—brought back another Viennese memory. One that had been unpleasant and nerve-racking then, but with time, had acquired a somewhat humorous patina. It was of that embarrassing moment at the meeting of the Austrian Literary Society, where he had been exposed in the act of impersonating a more famous author with a very similar name, Gareth Martens. And by none other than Billy Crawford, an old acquaintance from summer camp days, who—as he had found out during the “Kallay Affair”—was now an internationally sought-after terrorist. But that was all now well behind him, and, justifiably, he was proud of the fact that based on his newly acquired renown as a writer, he had been invited back by the Austrian Literary Society to give another lecture. This time, though, since he had written in both genres, he was asked to talk on the continuum between memoir and fiction in modern literature, which he knew he would have no problems with since it had been the topic of many articles he had written. However, this time it was not that busybody imbecile, Crabbe, who had sent Greg the all-expenses-paid invitation, but the newly elected head of the Society, the dowager Frau von Hitzinger whom he vaguely remembered meeting way back then.
Greg returned to the present from his musings about the past just as the taxi pulled up outside the Sacher. He loved to stay in this beautiful hotel, and it helped that, as before, the Society’s meeting was to be held here the very next day, Friday. The Hotel Sacher was right across from the Staatsoper, and, as he got out of the cab, Greg resolved to ask the receptionist to get them two tickets to whatever was being performed at the world’s most famous opera house. He was an avid lover of the genre, having grown up with it as a child in Cleveland, where, at the insistence of his Hungarian grandmother, Omi, there had always been classical music playing in their home. Fortunately, Anne too, was a keen opera buff, although her tastes were not as eclectic as Greg’s and tended toward the more often played romantic pieces.
“Tonight at the Staatsoper, Mr. Martens,” the receptionist answered Greg’s question, “let me see…there is a new production of Siegfried, you know, the third opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle. A great production. Wonderful, I have seen it myself. With Jonas Kauffman and Svetlana Kokova. Tickets are hard to get, but I am sure we can manage. And tomorrow, there is a performance of…let’s see…Dmitry Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. As another possibility, there is also The Merry Widow at the Volksoper today and tomorrow. Perhaps that is more to your liking, Mr. Martens?”
Greg glanced over at Anne, who was standing several meters away with the bags, busy looking through a pamphlet on what to do in Vienna that week, then back at the receptionist, and on an impulse, said, “No, please, see if you can get us two tickets for the Wagner for tonight. That would be terrific.” He loved the German composer, and although he knew that the Ring wasn’t exactly Anne’s “cup of tea,” she would certainly prefer it to the Shostakovich. Although he remembered that she had adored Julian Barnes’ wonderful little novel about the composer where the opera had been mentioned. He himself had never seen it performed but had always been intrigued by the work, especially since it had caused Shostakovich so many problems with Stalin and his régime. In fact, an article attributed to Stalin himself had dubbed it “Muddle Instead of Music,” he remembered from the book. Also, the complicated story of adultery, scheming and murder spoke to him as an author. He was sorely tempted, but no, Wagner was definitely a better choice, Greg decided. In any case, he knew his wife would be pleased just to go out in their favorite city and make a romantic evening of it, especially with dinner at Julius Meinl after the opera, as on their very first date. Yes, it was indeed something to look forward to. He would break the news to her when they got up to the room.
Why not—maybe that would result in a little loving before we wander out to see the sights, Greg thought, liking his plan very much.
© 2018 by Geza Tatrallyay