Zygmunt Miłoszewski is a two-time laureate of the High Calibre Award for his crime stories about the prosecutor Szacki. In ‘Bezcenny / Priceless’ he fully reveals his talent for writing brilliant action.
The seekers of works of art stolen from Poland during World War II, suddenly have a chance to regain Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man. However, following in the wake of the team, are ruthless terrorists, sent by overseas authorities…
Bezcenny / Priceless has a highly intriguing pace. According to Hitchcock’s recipe, it starts with an ‘earthquake’, that is, a terrorist attack on a cable car, and from then on than the tension keeps increasing. There are enough unexpected turning points to build a thrilling multi-season TV series in the text of Bezcenny / Priceless. Zygmunt Miłoszewski’s thriller returns at some points to the events of World War II but most of the action takes place in the present day, with the participation of easily recognisable public figures. The author does not hesitate to lash them for their incompetence, cynicism and endless self-serving calculations.
The unit on a mission to recover the Portrait of a Young Man comprises of Dr. Zofia Lorentz, a scientist and Ministry Of Foreign Affairs expert on lost treasures, Karol Boznański – an up-and-coming art dealer, Anatol Gmitruk – an ex-officer of the Secret Service, and Lisa Tolgfors – the terror of museums, a Swedish burglar specialising in art heists. Unintentionally, Miłoszewski’s characters will stand in the way of a whole army of highly-trained spies and “wetwork” experts equipped with the newest technology.
A bunch of mere amateurs, from a totally negligible country, excited by some valueless antiques! Now, what the hell? The grizzled man sighed. – You know I can tell you nothing, Martin. As usual… But just because we have known each other for a couple of years I’ll mention that there are some objects, the appearing of which could be more dangerous for our country than the appearing of atomic bombs in mail order shops. Do you get it? He nodded. Of course he understood. Weapons means victims and a few more victims will do no harm to anybody. Efficient propaganda, however, can make a casus belli out of one victim and a misadventure out of a thousand victims. Knowledge – knowledge is power.
Traces indicating the whereabouts of Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man even mobilise the bosses of the Secret Service in Washington. They want to find it before the Poles in order to stop the secret documents attached to the painting going public. These documents would reveal that the participation of the US in World War II wasn’t as selfless as they proclaim.
Miłoszewski points out that world’s military lobby needs to justify their existence not by trying to maintain peace but on the contrary, by striving for war, which can easily increase economic demand and export. This is why American technology was so eagerly sold to Europe before the war, not excluding Nazi Germany.
Hans Frank, a German governor of occupied Poland who was famous for looting Polish assets, kept his the most precious spoils together with relevant agreements signed by the highest levels of the U.S and Nazi authorities - which were supposed to give immunity to Germans after the war. Somehow, the treasure was lost in mysterious circumstances, and so Frank ended up on the gallows. A part of the looted pieces of art was returned to Poland but there is still an empty frame at the Kraków Museum, waiting for A Portrait of a Young Man. Its fulfilment would cause (according to a prominent but unidentified person) ‘diplomatic scandals, international crises and huge turmoil on the global markets. This was the price that had to be considered, not the lives of few conspiring people in an ugly metropolis, somewhere in Central Eastern Europe’.
With his newest novel, Zygmunt Miłoszewski has proved that he is not only a good crime author but also – similar to Umberto Eco, Dan Brown or Arturo Pérez-Reverte, an author able to set a crime story in a valuable humanistic framework. It is not insignificant that by putting this in a popular form he makes it easier to reach. Perhaps thanks to Bezcenny/Priceless some people may realise the immensity of the cultural devastation of Poland .
Zygmunt Miłoszewski (born 1976) is a prose writer, journalist and author of scripts. He debuted in 2004 in Polityka weekly with his short story Historia portfela / A History of a Wallet, then had his children's fable Góry Żmijowe / Snake Mountains published and translated into Ukrainian and Serbian. His first thriller entitled Domofon / Intercom, earned him the informal title of the Polish Stephen King. On commission from Juliusz Machulski he wrote a film script based on the Domofon / Intercom. His novel Uwikłanie / Entanglement, brought his High Calibre Award and was published in Great Britain, where it received an enthusiastic welcome. A film, of the same title, was made and directed by Jacek Bromski. Ziarno prawdy / A Grain of Truth (2011) earned him a second High Calibre Award.
Bezcenny / Priceless
series: Mroczna seria
W.A.B. Publishing House, Warsaw 2013
size: 125 x 194 mm, pages: 494
Author: Janusz R. Kowalczyk, June 2013. Translated by W.O. March 2014.