Case Closed by Patrik Ourednik
By Jonathan Messinger
Time Out Chicago, Issue 275 : Jun 3–9, 2010
We stared at the first page of Czech author Ourednik’s gumshoe novel for a while before it sunk in. All those symbols were chess notation. The very next page (in fact, the next chapter), paid no attention to the game laid out before, which signaled what kind of book we were getting into. Ostensibly a detective novel in which several crimes are committed (including murder, rape and arson), Case Closed opens up innumerable avenues by switching points of view, barely overlapping several of the story lines, and incorporating a fair amount of chess.
The meat and potatoes of the story concerns a group of retirees, including the misanthrope Viktor Dyk, who regretfully receives visitors at his bench in the park to discuss the series of unfortunate events. His distant relative, a detective Lebeda, surfaces and attempts to do some police work, if only Ourednik would let him.
The book reads partly as a satire of contemporary Czech Republic, as when Ourednik writes, “The museum was off the beaten tourist paths and few foreign visitors were acquainted with the fact that Andy Warhol was actually Czech, or actually Slovak, which is the same thing, at least for Warhol, a native of Pittsburgh.”
The “detective story” progresses and derails with equal speed, which is part of the fun. Eventually, the mystery isn’t so much who killed whom, but what in the hell is happening. Which makes for both a more entertaining read and, likely, a truer reconstruction of an actual investigation.