Was it unlucky to make the 13th stop of the Orient Express -- Serbia? What or who killed two anthropology students there? Travel to this exotic Balkan location to find out.
Atop the Petrovaradin Fortress overlooking the Danube River and the remains of an Orient Express bridge in Serbia, a man and a woman meet on Midsummer’s Night.
He is Dr. Novak Travis, an expert on virtual life. Born in Serbia, Novak lives in Canada, where he teaches at a university. Attracted by news that has triggered his research interest, Novak currently has a teaching engagement in the city of Novi Sad, lying just across the river.
She is Dr. Anina Babich, an expert on holographic anthropology. Also with roots in this area, Anina lives in the U.S., teaching at Indiana University. She has come to Novi Sad to run a research project. Her goal is to create an electronic image of the Orient Express train for a rail museum in the US. Success with the project would strengthen her tenure portfolio.
Anina and Novak meet at a spot from which one can see a spooky, dark mouth of a tunnel through which the luxury Orient Express train used to run until a bridge over the Danube was destroyed in World War II. Novak has been coming to that place for weeks, and the city gossip is that he’s been waiting for waiting for the Orient Express. Some people think he is a lunatic; others call him just a “crazy scientist.”
That night when Anina and Novak meet, they both see the Orient Express, down to the detail of passengers in the dining car.
After coming to the old country with high hopes, Anina experiences difficulties even before the launch of her project. To get a dig permit, Anina had to accept a deal imposed by a local official Petra Markov. Petra used to be a school mate, but has come a long way to wield political power in Serbia that has undergone dramatic changes after the collapse of country of Yugoslavia to which Serbia belonged before the 1990s. Petra pressed Anina to expand her research with a dig for old gold believed to buried somewhere within the maze of old tunnels under the Petrovaradin Fortress. She also is forced to take a young Ukrainian programmer Vladimir onto her project team.
To add to the difficult start, an American student, member of Anina’s team, is missing. Novak is implicated after telling a colleague about his nightly visions and drawing a picture resembling the missing student. Anina is not aware of this when she meets Novak.
Novak’s drawing ends up in hands of a young detective Aleksandra Katić, and she is appointed to lead an official investigation. As Novak finishes teaching a university class about virtual life, Aleksandra informs him the body of the missing student was found in the Orient Express tunnel. Novak is shocked, while Anina questions him. He explains how he’s got to draw the picture after seeing clearly a face of a young man in one of his Orient Express visions. His story is senseless, but Aleksandra has to let him walk since evidence is scanty and barely circumstantial.
Aleksandera informs Anina of her student’s death. Anina’s anxiety builds up and she reaches out to Novak. They start a romance, unaware that they already engaged in virtual sex via the virtual world called SecondLife, which both of them keep visiting to relieve stress. Anina and Novak dine together in restaurant on the Danube bank and talk about the local culture and geopolitics affecting the area. Other characters also enjoy food and drinks in Danube restaurants. Petra meets with a Russian tycoon Yegor Yavlinski, who questions her about the details of Anina’s project. Petra assures Yegor that everything is under her control. Ukrainian programmer Vladimir meets with another team member Varvara Tomin. She is pretty, and Vladimir is attracted to her. Varvara feels the same way, although she cannot grasp why her friend is so worried with regard to the project. Research has been coming out pretty well.
The body of another American student on Anina’s team is found in the tunnel. Among the personal articles of the deceased, the police find a note implicating Novak. Before Aleksandra is able to act, Novak and Anina leave Novi Sad, heading to a music festival. They enjoy music played on traditional instruments and food prepared in a rustic way over the open fire. However, Aleksandra manages to track them down and breaks the romantic moment. She apprehends Novak as a “person of interest” in the two murders.
As you follow Novak and Anina, you’ll get recipes of the local foods they savor on their way to discovering the real killer.