Sources of the Moldau

Petra Klabouchová

Petra Klabouchová: Sources of the Moldau

Original title: Prameny Vltavy

Genre: detective novel


Host, 2021

ISBN: 978-80-275-0741-2

Pages: 303


Šumava Litera 2022 (Johann Steinbrener Award – fiction category), shortlisted for Czech Book Award 2022, Jiří Marek Award 2022 (honorary mention)

Foreign editions:

Polish (Afera, Agata Wróbel, 2023)

Rights sold to:

Macedonia (Antolog), Italy (Edizioni le Assassine)


A frozen girl with a Star of David and never-to-be forgotten injustice in the Bohemian Forest… Tale of detection set in the present time against a backdrop of real historical events connected with Sources of the Moldau, a secret concentration camp.


Locals in the borderlands with Germany are shaken by a gruesome discovery – that of the body of a student from the grammar school in Vimperk. It is as though the hills of the Bohemian Forest have spewed forth their contents. The dead girl is dressed in the ‘uniform’ of a Jew, which presents tabloid journalists with a juicy titbit and an ageing police superintendent with a new opportunity. While the super sees his chance to gain recognition from colleagues and loved ones alike, so restoring his tarnished reputation, memories of long-ago injustice are stirring among the locals.     

Each shift in the investigation draws the story of the dead girl closer to the truth about the Sources of the Moldau concentration camp. The girl’s striped pyjamas bring the unexplained fates of Soviet prisoners-of-war and Hitler’s secret factory under Table Mountain forcefully into the present. But what is the connection between the girl’s murder and the Sources of the Moldau camp? What secrets have the hills of the Bohemian Forest yet to reveal? And what gives rise to evil? 


"Sources of the Moldau is a broad, layered work that remorselessly charts painful Czech history, and in particular why we still refuse to talk about it.

(…) Let's forget that this is a detective story. Let's talk about Sources of the Moldau as literature. Although it is teeming with SS men, secret police, informers, aging prostitutes, disillusioned detectives and the other inevitable currency of detective fiction, the author transcends the genre, primarily with her confident writing; the words obey her as do the larger sentence units, compressed into small chapters. These are then fused in time in a complex but effective manner. (...) It is a treat to witness such finely mastered narration in a Czech setting.

The reader of Sources of the Moldau will experience plenty of suspense and a little fear, but to paraphrase the classic quote: a good thriller is not about being afraid, but about knowing better. We experience the beginnings of many animosities -- such as between the Czechs and the Germans, as well as the roots of misunderstanding between the natives and those who arrived later, between the more and the less successful.

Using a small sample, Klabouchová brilliantly portrays a divided society. She depicts the bottom of the social ladder as well as the social facade and media tinsel, and she does not hesitate to point out their essence. (…)

The war may be long over, but it's not such a big problem to start a small, personal one. (…)

Apart from the wartime and post-war storyline Sources of the Moldau is set in the present day, though it is actually taking place all the time. In a way it is an endless story.


Sources of the Moldau is just asking to be made into a film. If the film crews are already gearing up for it, it only remains for me to encourage the reader to read the book first. It's really not just about bloodshed and suspense. It's about pain, misunderstanding and silence."

Aleš Palán, Aktuálně


"Even in the Bohemian Forest village of Františkov, Klabouchová manages to invoke the gloomy atmosphere of a Nordic crime drama and set a sophisticated story in it with the deft usage of numerous attractive local elements, including some penny-dreadful (albeit realistic perhaps) props such as a Nazi underground factory and secret passages dug across the border. (…)

The narrative is presented from several different perspectives and time levels. (...) The author handles [this rather unusual composition] well. At both of the main levels she conveys only what she needs to, the dénouement is divided into several stages and overall she guides the reader skillfully.


If Sources of the Moldau was ever translated into the languages of Scandinavia, perhaps the readers there would also hold their breath as they read about the wild conditions in that unknown and dangerous country, just as Czech readers do when reading the overblown thrillers of Lars Kepler or Jussi Adler-Olsen.

In any case, Klabouchová proves with this book that she could develop into an interesting genre author."

Pavel Mandys,


"The thirteenth chamber, sunk in the dust of ancient times, has been opened. The layers of evil, so carefully suppressed for so many years, are gushing out in full force. They strike with such precision that they fall on the innocent in particular.

You will read Sources of the Moldau in literally one go and devour page after page. The author has managed to capture the gloomy atmosphere of the Czech borderland in an absolutely naturalistic way, as if it still hasn’t recovered after so many years  from the accreted violence and images of death. The distinctive Bohemian Forest region, where the German and Czech cultures had been mixing for centuries, underwent a critical upheaval in the 1930s after Hitler’s invasion, from which it never recovered. (…)

Evil always begets only evil, causes more suffering and creates new victims. Who was more to blame for all this? The Germans or the Czechs? Even these days there are still some unconventional historical debates on this topic and the writer leaves this complicated question open, with the proviso that everyone should make up their own mind on this matter.
Petra Klabouchová has managed to brilliantly align the detective story with historical realities, combining the different storylines.


The time loop of this novel, which is retold in different timelines and from different perspectives, also plays an important role. The surprisingly convoluted story with elements of a psychological thriller, plus a small espionage detour at the end, results in a surprising twist that makes this crime novel even more appealing. As in real life -- good does not always triumph over evil."

Artúr Soldán,


"It's a very suspenseful story, full of twists and turns, well drawn psychologically."

Jaroslav Pulkrábek,


"The author Petra Klabouchová has in my view managed to write a truly exceptional book that will leave you breathless. (…) The combination of two of my favourite genres -- noir crime fiction and historical non-fiction -- works perfectly in this case.  (…)  The interconnections with the present and the arousal of passions, hatred and pain will affect all those who get into this book. This emotionally charged narrative about the wrongs of the past and evil happening in the present is simply fascinating.  Petra Klabouchová has managed to conjure up the perfect cocktail from my favourite ingredients and serves it up in grand style."


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