The patient Herbert Anwaldt had survived "the house of torture", as he called the psychiatric clinic on Marien-Allee in Dresden, for already five years, thanks to his imagination. Imagination was a filter for wondrous transformations; the nurses' jabs and punches became gentle caresses, the stench of faeces became the scent of a spring garden, the cries of the sick became baroque cantatas and the shabby panelling frescoes by Giotto. Imagination obeyed him. After years of practice, he had managed to tame it to such an extent that he had entirely extinguished in himself something, for example, which would otherwise not have allowed him to survive incarceration: desire for a woman's body. He did not have to "extinguish the fire in his loins" like a sage from the Old Testament — that flame had long ago gone out.
— from Death in Breslau, by Marek Krajewski.
I'm not sure how this book first came to my attention, but it's been on my list of books-I-really-should-look-up-someday for years. And something made me think to look it up this weekend, so now I have a copy (electronic), and I'm reading and loving it.
Polish noir, they say. Morally ambiguous characters and sordid settings. Reminiscent of Simenon, only there's a little more going on in the plot department and the evidence of living in a Nazi state is a little more in your face.
Plus (as if that's not enough going for it!), it's set in Wrocław (or Breslau, as it was known prior to the end of WWII) — a town I have some familiarity with.
Double plus, I think the cover design for this series of Krajewski's novels (all set in interwar Breslau), from Quercus Publishing, is spectacular (to the point that I'm coveting actual print copies).
I'm only about 40 pages in. The murder case — involving hints of sexual perversion, scorpions, and ancient Syrian script, on a train car — has just been closed to everyone's satisfaction — everyone being the police department (chief of which is a prominent Freemason), the recently installed Nazi officials, and the victim's father (a connoisseur of esoterica) — except maybe that of the convicted Jew. I suspect we're not quite done yet.