Jane Gorman is the author of the Adam Kaminski mystery series. Having worked as an anthropologist, diplomat and park ranger, she turned to writing mysteries as yet another way to visit new worlds and meet new people. Learn more about Jane at her website.
In A Blind Eye, the first book in the Adam Kaminski mystery series, Detective Adam Kaminski is sent to Warsaw as part of a political delegation from Philadelphia. Why did I set my first book in Warsaw? Let me take you on a little tour to show you.
Warsaw is a modern metropolis. But sheltered against the western banks of the Wisła River, north of the city center, lies the historic old town.
We’ll start at the Field Cathedral of the Polish Army (above) on the corners of Miodowa and Długa, my home for a couple of memorable years. The cathedral stands opposite the memorial to those who fought – and died – in the ill-fated Warsaw Uprising of 1944. If we turn right on Długa, it will take us toward the Wisła River. Another right turn will bring us onto a narrow cobblestone street lined with aged and heavy doors. Stand with your arms spread wide and you can almost touch the buildings on either side.
The path ahead curves so you can’t see your destination, but soon the space opens up before you. Walking from the dark to the light, you suddenly find yourself in a large town square attached to a smaller open space that houses the Royal Castle.
It is not the brightest or most picturesque old town square in Poland. Visitors from Poznań or Kraków might describe it as small and muted. This square is historic not because the buildings have been preserved from the city’s youngest days but, on the contrary, because they were not.
Warsaw was destroyed during the war, its old town turned to rubble, first by the invading Germans and later by the occupying Russians. When I was young, my mother told me stories about collecting tin cans when she was a child in western Poland. Though she was far from Warsaw, the funds she and her friends raised all went to the Warsaw rebuilding effort.
I love this story about Warsaw, a story written on the face of the city. It’s a story of devastation and destruction. It’s a story of hope and optimism. A seeming contradiction, just like the rest of the city.
Another of my favorite sites to visit is the Powązki cemetery. Like many other cultures, Poland has a strong tradition of caring for the graves of lost loved ones. Take a trip to Powązki, particularly on All Saints Day (as Adam Kaminski did), and you will find yourself surrounded by crowds of young and old, men and women, visiting those who have passed, decorating their graves and sharing their memories.
The capital of Poland for over 400 years, Warsaw is a city of contrasts: a thriving metropolis of commerce and government, home to a vibrant and longstanding artistic community, and a place of profound historical changes, of brave battles and quietly kept secrets.
The enthusiasm and zest for the future – and the past – is tangible on the streets of Warsaw. Where better to set a present day murder mystery whose solution lies in history?
A Blind Eye
It was a quiet death, a young woman falling into the frigid waters of Warsaw's Wisła River. The police accept it as suicide, the pressures of a political internship too much to handle. Her father knows it was murder. Philadelphia Detective Adam Kaminski, visiting Poland on an official delegation, gets drawn into the investigation over the objections of his superiors back home. For the dead girl was family, her father a cousin Adam had only just met, and Adam was raised to put family first.
He begins uncovering the clues that point to the killer, clues that lead him inexorably into an investigation of the close-knit community of Polish politics and the legacy of the Secret Police. But the past isn't always black and white, as Adam is forced to accept as he learns more about the killer and about his own family legacy. Murder can only beget murder, driven by even deeper secrets.