Who’s Who in Prague

I thought it might be helpful to give a little information on each of the regular characters in my Slonský stories.

The main protagonist is, of course, Josef Slonský. Apart from his national service in the army, Slonský has been a policeman all his career, which means that he spent about half of it under communism. He doesn’t concern himself with politics; his objection is to poor policing and a lack of justice, and he is determined that those days won’t return.

His oldest friend is the reporter Valentin. Valentin must have had a first name at some time, but nobody seems to know what it is. He and Slonský have been drinking together since they were 11. Valentin lives in hope that one day he will have a prime time current affairs programme on television, but even he accepts that isn’t going to happen.

Slonský remembers all the grubby things he had to do under the old regime and assumes that everyone else’s hands are just as dirty, hence his lack of respect for officers of his age. He exempts Captain Josef Lukas, his boss when the series starts, because he knows Lukas’ promotion was impeded by his refusal to do that kind of thing. Lukas is a thoroughly decent man who is driven to exasperation by Slonský’s attitude to administration. Lukas has a wife and two adult daughters and is a very contented man. Slonský envies him that, while feeling ambiguous about the delights of living with a wife and two daughters.

In the normal run of things, policemen work in pairs, but Slonský does not like working with a partner. This feeling has been overcome by the realisation that he is nearing retirement age and could be forced out if he doesn’t keep his nose clean, so he has accepted Jan Navrátil as his assistant. Navrátil is industrious, strait-laced, a devout churchgoer and very clever. He was the second-best student in his year at the Academy, and, having met the man who came top, Slonský is convinced that the fact that his father was a leading politician may have influenced his marks.

They have been joined by Kristýna Peiperová, an ambitious woman officer who previously worked in Kladno but impressed Slonský with her work on one of his cases. This would not ordinarily have made a difference, but when Navrátil requested a transfer to Kladno to be nearer to her Slonský decided the simple answer was to keep them both in Prague. Peiperová may not have Navrátil’s university education, but she makes up for it with sharp observation and considerably more empathy for others than Slonský has ever managed. Navrátil and Peiperová have a relationship and plan to marry. Strictly, this means that they should not work together but Slonský has simply ignored the fact.

When he was very young Slonský married Věra Slonská. Unfortunately she ran off a couple of years later with a poet but she has now reappeared to confess that she never lodged the divorce documents, so they are still married. Věra would like to put things right with Slonský, who cannot decide what he wants.

Then there are a few other policemen. Dvorník and Doležal are the two other lieutenants in the crime team. Dvorník has been married twice and has eight globular children and a personal gun holding that would not disgrace a small country. He enjoys hunting in his spare time. Slonský cannot warm to Doležal, who is a teetotaller and an unrepentant stamp collector.

Major Klinger occupies the office immediately above Slonský and heads the Fraud Squad, though Slonský disputes that two people can be a “squad”. Klinger is fastidious and orderly, but is concerned that the offices harbour germs and never touches door handles with his bare hands.

Sergeant Pavel Mucha runs the front desk at police HQ. He joined the police at the same time as Slonský but realised quite early that he was not destined for high rank. Nevertheless, he enjoys his job, frequently volunteering for extra shifts when his wife’s sister comes to stay. He has not told his wife that he draws up the desk duty roster. Mucha knows his way round the police archives.

Dumpy Anna runs the canteen and is therefore a person of enormous importance to Slonský. As her nickname suggests, she is short but well-padded. She has been married twice but both husbands died and she has no wish to entangle herself a third time. That makes her relationship with Slonský very easy, because he isn’t looking for a partner either, so she is free to fuss and mother him to her heart’s content. She has been known to hide sausage under the counter for Slonský when supplies are running short.

Slonský frequently needs evidence from the pathologist, Dr Novák. Novák respects Slonský, one of the few officers who understands that forensic evidence is not collected quickly, though that does not stop him asking for a cause of death five minutes after Novák arrives. Novák is an international authority on footprints, on which he has written several papers, none of which Slonský has read.

As the series progresses, two new officers join Slonský’s team. Ivo Krob first appears in Slaughter and Forgetting when he is working for the Prague City Police. Slonský is impressed by Krob’s calmness and undaunted cheerfulness, characteristics that are not often attributed to Slonský himself. Lucie Jerneková could not be more different. She first appears as a witness in a case where Slonský is impressed by her directness, aggression and total disrespect for others. The downside is that she has no filters, meaning that Slonský is sometimes taken aback by her views, which are never less than forcefully expressed.

When Lukas steps down, Major Rajka becomes Slonský’s boss as Chief of the Criminal Police. Rajka is a former Olympic wrestler with a physique to match, almost as bad a driver as Slonský and, as a former head of the Office of Internal Investigations, as averse to corruption as Slonský. They get on well for this reason.