Zagreb Cowboy
Yugoslavia, 1991. The State is crumbling, and in the midst of the political chaos secret policeman Marko della Torre has been working both sides of the law -- but somewhere along the way he's crossed the line. When a corrupt cop called Strumbić helps three hired Bosnian thugs to hunt him down and kill him, della Torre makes a run for it through Croatia, Italy, and finally to London, where he’ll take Strumbić for all he's worth.A page-turning thriller shot through with black humour and razor-sharp dialogue, Zagreb Cowboy is the spectacular debut novel in a taut new crime fiction series.

Zagreb Cowboy Details

TitleZagreb Cowboy
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 6th, 2012
PublisherSpiderline
ISBN-139781770891081
Rating
GenreFiction, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Zagreb Cowboy Review

  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    Alen Mattich’s first of a series may just be the most fun since Tarantino’s movie Reservoir Dogs hit the silver screen. In Zagreb Cowboy , the security landscape during the breakup of Yugoslavia into Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia, Kosovo, Montenegro (did I miss anything?) is more than a little farcical, with teams of security personnel following each other, carrying Bulgarian knock-offs of Berettas that misfire with ammunition that doesn’t kill. When it makes (financial or polit Alen Mattich’s first of a series may just be the most fun since Tarantino’s movie Reservoir Dogs hit the silver screen. In Zagreb Cowboy , the security landscape during the breakup of Yugoslavia into Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia, Kosovo, Montenegro (did I miss anything?) is more than a little farcical, with teams of security personnel following each other, carrying Bulgarian knock-offs of Berettas that misfire with ammunition that doesn’t kill. When it makes (financial or political) sense, the pursuers will align with the object of their pursuit against a third team in a constantly shifting series of pas de deux.Mattich gets the tone just right by creating a series of hapless but sympathetic characters--some more sympathetic than others—who are less zealous defenders of the political realm than they are working men and women finding ways to keep body and soul together while stoking dreams of emigration. I don’t think anyone actually get killed, though there is plenty of shooting going on. There is much praise given to German engineering and the civilized British lifestyle, comparing everywhere--Italy, Spain, France, and America--more favorably than home.But one of my favorite passages in this book describes the pleasures and blessings of a simple country life “at home”:Strumbi had around twenty rows of vines, along with fruit trees, mostly plums and pears, which he picked in the summer, fermented, and then cooked into a potent spirit alcohol. And then there was the ancient cherry tree that turned the ground purple with its juice in August. The house itself was built on top of an old wine hut. The thick and roughly made concrete-and-stone walls now formed a self-contained ground-level cellar, where Strumbi matured the wine he made from his own grapes, distilled his spirits, and hung cured hams and salamis that he bought from the local villagers. Above the cellar was the house he’d built, one full storey under a steeply pitched roof. In all there was a large sitting room and balcony that looked out over the valley, a kitchen, a bathroom and two bedrooms, one of which Strumbi used as an office. But mostly when he was there, Strumbi sat in the cellar or at a rickety table by the side of the house under the huge cherry tree’s canopy. It was an idyll…and [our hero, della Torre] always looked forward to invitations there.Our intrepid hero, della Torre, comes from Istrian stock: “Political maps showed that in her ninety years, della Torre’s grandmother had lived in six different countries without once moving from the village in which she’d been born.” He works for Department VI, the UDBA’s (state intelligence) internal investigative service. He is a lawyer, primarily responsible for investigating extrajudicial killings the intelligence service might be involved in. He is a good man in a confusing world. He’s someone we’d be pleased to know…I think…unless he comes to visit leading that string of hitmen…A second book in the series, Killing Pilgrim is due out in the fall of 2013. But do take a look at this while you are waiting.
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  • Tuck
    January 1, 1970
    a fun noir set in yugoslavia as it destructed. federal police cid lawyer gets cross ways with post communist capitalist thugs. great dialogs and really brings out the black humor. so parts a bit cheesy with the love interests, but all the sausage eating and beer drinking make up for it. and the sub-standard 9mm weapons and ammo make it where so far nobody gets killed. reminds me a bit of carofiglio Temporary Perfections and fernet branca antics Cooking with Fernet Branca with some serious noir t a fun noir set in yugoslavia as it destructed. federal police cid lawyer gets cross ways with post communist capitalist thugs. great dialogs and really brings out the black humor. so parts a bit cheesy with the love interests, but all the sausage eating and beer drinking make up for it. and the sub-standard 9mm weapons and ammo make it where so far nobody gets killed. reminds me a bit of carofiglio Temporary Perfections and fernet branca antics Cooking with Fernet Branca with some serious noir thrown in like manchette Fatale
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  • Sue
    January 1, 1970
    Alen Mattich’s first novel is a thriller set in Yugoslavia in 1991. The fragile ties of various ethnic groups had been held together by Tito’s iron hand. Now, as in much of eastern Europe, things are falling apart, and old enmities will lead to violence, as we know all too sorrowfully. Marko della Torre had worked for UDBA, the powerful intelligence agency of Yugoslavia. His role had been to keep UDBA clean – an internal watch dog in an agency known for its ruthlessness. While his future is unce Alen Mattich’s first novel is a thriller set in Yugoslavia in 1991. The fragile ties of various ethnic groups had been held together by Tito’s iron hand. Now, as in much of eastern Europe, things are falling apart, and old enmities will lead to violence, as we know all too sorrowfully. Marko della Torre had worked for UDBA, the powerful intelligence agency of Yugoslavia. His role had been to keep UDBA clean – an internal watch dog in an agency known for its ruthlessness. While his future is uncertain, his past is catching up with him. He has not been squeaky clean, passing information to a corrupt cop who has put out a contract on him.As an employee of UDBA, della Torre seems unlikely. Violence does not sit easily on his educated shoulders. One must always put it in the context of what the choices might have been for him in a totalitarian regime.But that sounds very serious, and this book is also a ton of fun. The sociopolitical setting might have drawn me in, but I ended up constantly amused at characters who have bumbled out of a police state and do not know how to think or behave. The Keystone Cops had nothing on these cloak-and-dagger types. With Tito’s police state in disarray, loyalties constantly shift: this theme is a constant. Mattich has published a sequel, Killing Pilgrim, which I happen to have read first. The second book is more skillfully crafted, with more tension and more attention to the political chaos. I was always aware of the uncertainties; who could be trusted? This is simply to say that Mattich gained powers with the second book, so I'm eagerly awaiting book three, Heart of Hell, due out in 2015.
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  • Rhoddi
    January 1, 1970
    I actually liked this book. The characters, the wit, the easy flow writing style, the gloomy setting and that sometimes laugh-out-loud humor. For a debut book, it really shows promise. The only things that bothered me and brought down the rating were the too relaxed feeling of the story, it never feeling like there was really any tension, and the lack of filling in some details. Things just sort of happen and the reader has to fill in the blanks. Also some characters doing out of character choic I actually liked this book. The characters, the wit, the easy flow writing style, the gloomy setting and that sometimes laugh-out-loud humor. For a debut book, it really shows promise. The only things that bothered me and brought down the rating were the too relaxed feeling of the story, it never feeling like there was really any tension, and the lack of filling in some details. Things just sort of happen and the reader has to fill in the blanks. Also some characters doing out of character choices made me scratch my head.Will I buy the next one after this read? You bet, I'm curious as to what will happen next to Gringo.
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  • Debra
    January 1, 1970
    Lawyer Marko della Torre has been crossing the line between honesty and dishonesty for some time. He’s had to. It’s 1991 and in Zagreb, Croatia, his government employer is chronically underfunded and inflation is so high that the paychecks no longer cover the bills. When one of his arrangements with a shady Zagreb police officer turns sour, della Torre is forced into hiding. A lot of people want him dead.Zagreb Cowboy is a well written suspense novel, but its real strength is the setting. The au Lawyer Marko della Torre has been crossing the line between honesty and dishonesty for some time. He’s had to. It’s 1991 and in Zagreb, Croatia, his government employer is chronically underfunded and inflation is so high that the paychecks no longer cover the bills. When one of his arrangements with a shady Zagreb police officer turns sour, della Torre is forced into hiding. A lot of people want him dead.Zagreb Cowboy is a well written suspense novel, but its real strength is the setting. The author, who once lived in Zagreb, provides a terrific economic, political, social, and physical portrayal of an area on the brink of war. Setting drives much of the behavior and action in this book. Trust is a rare commodity and corruption is rampant.The characters are well drawn, and the tension is so high that this book is quite a page turner. The pace slows in one later section, but given the suspense that has built up to this point, I didn’t mind. The action-packed confrontation between key players near the end is completely entertaining and a bit humorous, which is even better. Give this book a try. It’s a great read and the good news is that there are others in the series.
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  • Margaret Sankey
    January 1, 1970
    Della Torre was such a straight and narrow cop that the Yugoslavian secret police put him on their internal affairs squad. It is 1991, though, and as his country unravels, his bosses venture out of the straight and the narrow to blackmail people with secret police files. When called on this crime, Dell Torre's particularly creepy boss blames him, setting a bunch of pissed of Bosnians on his trail. In an attempt to straighten this out, Della Torre, thanks to crummy Eastern Bloc pistols and ammo, Della Torre was such a straight and narrow cop that the Yugoslavian secret police put him on their internal affairs squad. It is 1991, though, and as his country unravels, his bosses venture out of the straight and the narrow to blackmail people with secret police files. When called on this crime, Dell Torre's particularly creepy boss blames him, setting a bunch of pissed of Bosnians on his trail. In an attempt to straighten this out, Della Torre, thanks to crummy Eastern Bloc pistols and ammo, shoots his creep boss, and, pursued by elements from the entire unraveling of Yugoslavia, flees to Italy and London. This is a perceptive and political procedural, with much of the interest coming from the fish out of water adventures of people who were all-powerful in their little corner of the pond, but at sea in the much more sophisticated corruption of a western 1990s nation.
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  • Eva D.
    January 1, 1970
    Adrenaline fueled tale of Eastern Europe in the 90s bleeding into London. Della Torre is an agent for the UDBA charged with investigating UDBA's excessive use of force. Unfortunately, he's been selling UDBA secrets on the sly and now somebody wants his head on a plate. Things get worse when he realizes his partner-in-crime Strumbic has double crossed him and has stolen files from his office that weren't for sale.All in all, it's a coffee, booze, and smoke filled adventure up and down the Croatia Adrenaline fueled tale of Eastern Europe in the 90s bleeding into London. Della Torre is an agent for the UDBA charged with investigating UDBA's excessive use of force. Unfortunately, he's been selling UDBA secrets on the sly and now somebody wants his head on a plate. Things get worse when he realizes his partner-in-crime Strumbic has double crossed him and has stolen files from his office that weren't for sale.All in all, it's a coffee, booze, and smoke filled adventure up and down the Croatian coast, through Slovenia, and Italy that culminates in a shout out on London's Heath. The writing is a bit clunky and over-the-top in places but the suspense of the story keeps pulling you along.Good read of 90s Balkan drama is your cup of tea. Some of the references might be lost in you if you're not familiar with it.
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  • Vontel
    January 1, 1970
    Quite enjoyed this new series (to me), will look for the next one, which actually takes place 7 years earlier with the assassination of Olaf Palme. This book takes place in 1991, just prior to the breakup of Yugoslavia, involving Marko della Torra, an honest member of the secret police, in a division meant to try to catch the most corrupt of their co-workers and the regular police, and perhaps unravel some of the intricate politics of their communist past. Well worth a read.
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  • Marci - Serendipitous Readings
    January 1, 1970
    it was good, I enjoyed it. looking forward to the next book.
  • Rusty
    January 1, 1970
    Lagged a little at the beginning, but I was glad to stick with it. Four stars easily.
  • Matthew Parsons
    January 1, 1970
    The story is an interesting action mystery which on its own makes it worth reading. The setting and the vivid descriptions of the places, people and events on their own would create a book that I'd happily read. Alen Mattich merged those two aspects into one of the few books I'd read again.
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  • Gabriella Gricius
    January 1, 1970
    Why Read: Funnily enough, I read the third book in this trilogy quite some time ago. I didn't know it at the time, but I had somehow skipped books one and two. As I was lazily scrolling through my Goodreads TBR, I couln't help but notice that Book One was still on there. I do love Yugoslavia after all... and anything that has to do with murder, corruption and conspiracy has my attention without even trying. So? Was there a question that I wanted to read this? Review: If I had to choose a word to Why Read: Funnily enough, I read the third book in this trilogy quite some time ago. I didn't know it at the time, but I had somehow skipped books one and two. As I was lazily scrolling through my Goodreads TBR, I couln't help but notice that Book One was still on there. I do love Yugoslavia after all... and anything that has to do with murder, corruption and conspiracy has my attention without even trying. So? Was there a question that I wanted to read this? Review: If I had to choose a word to describe my emotions after finishing this book: it might be 'content'. In no way does this mean that the book gave me the ending that I wanted, it actually has quite the opposite effect. Nevertheless, I found myself pleased. Mattich writes with a spring in his step as he describes the terrible state that Yugoslavia found itself in after the death of Tito. What does a secret police agency do when the country is tearing itself apart and orders from Croatia, Bosnia and Belgrade are more mixed up than the letters in a scrabble bag? The answer is: nothing at all. Marko Della Torre is one of the good guys... minus when he sells information to his corrupt friend Stumbic. When you add Bosnian hitmen to the equation without an understanding of who hired them and why - it only gets more complicated. When Marko is framed for shooting Strumbic (which technically he did), he flees the country since obviously someone wants him dead. After a wild goose chase, Marko finds himself avoiding the secret police and trying to vaguely discover what it is about the Pilgrim file that has someone trying to kill him. "I see this has only half a tank of petrol. Any chance of topping it up as a way of thanking agod?" "I'd love to but I'm an athetist. Good Communisty upbringing."That is by far one of my favorite quotes from the novel. Mattich has a dry humor when dealing with Marko and there are so many gems thrown into the text that I was torn when attempting to find one that gave the best hint of his style. You'll find yourself finished with the book before you know what to do with yourself and before long - the next one will be in your hands. As someone who has read further down the line, expect the intrigue to get steamier and significantly more dangerous. It's civil war in Yugoslavia, and the stakes only continue to rise.Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
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  • Charles
    January 1, 1970
    A light & humorous read about the adventures of secret policeman Marko Della Torre in 1991 Yugoslavia, just about when the country is about to fall apart in a civil war, and is beset with corruption, bribery, and ethnic conflict. There is lots of action & shooting, but somehow no one gets killed, perhaps due to the fact that the weapons are cheap imitation Berettas with substandard ammunition. Marko("Gringo")who has been selling poor information to Strumbic, a Croat policeman, who in tur A light & humorous read about the adventures of secret policeman Marko Della Torre in 1991 Yugoslavia, just about when the country is about to fall apart in a civil war, and is beset with corruption, bribery, and ethnic conflict. There is lots of action & shooting, but somehow no one gets killed, perhaps due to the fact that the weapons are cheap imitation Berettas with substandard ammunition. Marko("Gringo")who has been selling poor information to Strumbic, a Croat policeman, who in turn stole more useful files which he resold at high prices, along with other illegal activities, to make a fortune invested in pricey London real estate, is set up by Strumbic at the request of a shadowy Belgrade figure, to be killed by 3 inept Bosnian gunmen, who are outwitted by Marko. He is then on the run, after stealing Strumbic's car, keys, money & cigarettes. & makes it to London, where he goes to Strumbic's apartment & runs into the real estate agent, a gorgeous blonde "Harry", who has illegally moved into the place, after furnishing it, & charging Strumbic for it. Marko is separated from his wife of 3 years, and the 2 soon form a couple & set up a scheme to deplete Strumbic's bank account. He naturally comes after them, as do the 3 inept Bosnian gunmen, and also Marko's boss & another secret cop. Most manage to get shot but not killed, and go back to Croatia, while the 3 gunmen are arrested in the UK. Marko's wife Irina a radiologist, also returns, but the expectation is that Marko & Harry will get back together. Further novels of Della Torre are in the works.
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  • Victoria
    January 1, 1970
    wow i could not get into this. I read it because I love action and all the great reviews of it. yes it has a lot of action, yes the plot moves quicly, buuuut the characters suck. well suck is an understatement. the main character is flat, his ex-wife is a name and thats about it. overall, I couldn't get into it. I couldn't care less what happened to the main character or his ex-wife, or his boss, or his friends. i wouldn't recommend this.
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  • Bob
    January 1, 1970
    Secret policeman Marko della Torre in 1991 crumbling Yugoslavia is working both sides of the street, moderately corrupt and surviving but one of the good guys; other, badder cops want to kill him and this drives the plot. Good depiction of the approaching war and sense of fear in Zagreb as well as how the rich, poor and corrupt survive and occasionally flourish; moments of comedy in a good thriller
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  • Sarah Jane
    January 1, 1970
    Not my kind of book, but it was in the house and I was sick, soooo I read it. The best parts were about Zagreb and Samobor and the cream cakes they make there, because it reminded me of my honeymoon in Croatia. The story was OK. It was novel to read a mystery/thriller set in 1990s Yugoslavia. Maybe I'll read the next one?
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  • Craig
    January 1, 1970
    An amusing book that moves along and slips in some of the history of the break-up of Yugoslavia. The book has a good sense of humour and some action and believable characters. I'll try another in his Marko della Torre series.
  • Justin
    January 1, 1970
    Oh, the dialogue! I suppose you can blame the translator for at least part of that, but only the author can be held responsible for a plot that dramatically underutilized the interesting sociopolitical setting and instead gave us a rather dull robbery/chase scene across Southern Europe.
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  • Jim Willse
    January 1, 1970
    Thoroughly enjoyable mystery in the spirit of Adrian McKinty's Sean Duffy series or Timothy Hallinan's Junior Bender. What are the odds a story about a Croatian secret policeman set in 1991 would be funny and terrifically engaging? Zagreb Cowboy is.
  • Colin
    January 1, 1970
    Really a good read. Fast paced and somewhat dark with the timeframe and subject matter, but has lots of subtle humour as well.
  • Leeann
    January 1, 1970
    I picked up this book so I could learn a bit about Croatia - it was a great read with a strong plot and interesting characters. Looking forward to the next in the series.
  • J
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fun read.
  • Lis
    January 1, 1970
    I just stumbled on this series -- a terrific set of characters and excellent writing! I'm eager to start the next one.
  • Izabella
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars. Great dialogue. Entertaining read.
  • C.C. Gibbs
    January 1, 1970
    Great locale, fascinating hero, charming humor, and a real nitty gritty view of political corruption!
  • John Fair
    January 1, 1970
    Thoroughly enjoyed this on my Ipad reader - New locations in Adriattic and history of area and politics was very enlightening. A good chase thriller.
  • Uwe
    January 1, 1970
    putting corruption, intelligent service, shooting, cheating and hurting poeple in a book with a funny touch ..........interesting, and I even laughed in between.
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