Scholarly Chief Inspector Jacek Wroblewski, head of detectives in the Polish city of Wroclaw, read little except Russian classics and the occasional historical biography. So when he got an anonymous note asking him to read a lurid crime novel he thought it was a colleague playing a joke.
Nevertheless in the spring of 2005 he bought the novel — called Amok and published two years earlier — and read it expecting to be bored and irritated by its style and content. Instead he found it impossible to put down. The book, a first novel by an unknown Polish writer named Krystian Bala, was the story of a man, a highly intelligent philosophy graduate, who plans the perfect murder. And what Chief Inspector Wroblewski soon realised was that the crime was an exact carbon copy of a murder which had taken place in Wroclaw five years earlier — a case police had been forced to drop due to lack of evidence.
It was in December 2000 that the body of long-haired 35-year-old advertising director Dariusz Janiszewski had been found by fishermen on the banks of Wroclaw's River Odra after being missing for over a month.
He had been beaten, stabbed and tied up in a particular way — which had never been made public but was described in detail in the book.
The police chief read Amok several times. "I found the book vulgar, sensational and badly written. It was hard for me to read it but I knew I had to.
"There were specific elements which matched exactly the way the killing was carried out. It was important that Krystian Bala be interviewed as soon as possible."
When this happened two days later, Krystian Bala was outraged. Of course he had nothing to do with the murder but he freely admitted that he had used newspaper reports of the crime as a basis for the plot of his novel.
But the characters and the exploits of the central figure, named Chris, were all figments of his imagination.
After three days of interrogation, the police let him go. Bala told reporters: "The police inspector seemed to know my book by heart.
"He was treating the book as if it were a literal biography rather than a piece of pure fiction. I am considering suing for harassment and wrongful arrest."
But while he had no hard evidence on which to hold Krystian Bala, Chief Inspector Wroblewski was convinced that the cocky young academic was linked to the killing of Dariusz Janiszewski and was determined to investigate further.
A team of detectives assigned to reopening the case, soon uncovered some highly incriminating facts. Not only had Bala known the dead man but had phoned him around the time of his disappearance.
But what convinced Wroblewski that he had the right men was the news that Janiszewski had been having an affair with Bala's ex-wife... and that although the marriage had been over for some years, Bala was insanely jealous when his ex-wife went out with anyone else.
Investigators also found that anonymous e-mails from computers in Singapore, South Korea and Japan had been sent to a Polish TV Crimewatch programme describing the killing as "the perfect crime."
And police discovered that Bala had been on diving holidays in these countries at the time the e-mails were sent.
The dead man's mobile phone was never found but the service provider was able to trace his SIM card and discovered that the phone had been bought on an Internet auction site called Allegro three days after Janiszewski's disappearance. The phone had been sold by Bala using the pseudonym Chris... and the narrator in Amok, also named Chris, sold the bloodied murder weapon on the Allegro auction site...
Bala, still protesting his innocence and denying ever meeting Janiszewski was arrested for the second time in September 2005 when a search of his bedroom revealed computer files containing information on Janiszewski, and a pen bearing the logo of his advertising firm.
By now, intense public interest in the case had made Amok into a be