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 best-seller. In the book Chris, the anti-hero, is never caught and gets away with murder, but its author wasn't so lucky.
In September 2007, Bala appeared before Judge Lidia Hojenska accused of murder and conspiracy, charges he still flatly denied. For the prosecution, Liliana Lukasiewicz told the court that Bala had killed Janiszewski because he was jealous that his ex-wife was seeing someone else.
Although the couple separated in 1999, Bala hired a private detective to follow her. When he discovered she was seeing Janiszewski, Bala sent her abusive e-mails.
The court heard evidence that before the break-up police had been regularly called to their flat in Wroclaw because of Bala's violent behaviour and the couple had been placed on a domestic violence register.
Prosecutor Lukasiewicz told the court: "His wife is still so terrified of him that she has withheld her present address when testifying against him at this trial."
She said two independent psychiatrists had found that Bala was highly intelligent, was mentally accountable for his actions, but had an emotional disorder which left him incapable of sympathy or mercy.
Defence lawyers claimed that all the evidence against Bala was entirely circumstantial. "We don't deny that Krystian Bala had the victim's mobile phone in his possession," the court was told. "But the prosecution has failed to establish how he got it.
"Having an object in one's possession is not the same as having killed the owner. A murder must be judged on evidence that is beyond reasonable doubt."
Smartly dressed in a blue suit, Bala sat taking notes, and was calm and composed throughout the trial.
Giving evidence in court he claimed he had never heard of Dariusz Janiszewski until he read about his death in the newspapers.
"I became deeply interested in the case and decided to use it as a basis for a novel. I had no information other than that published in the media," he said.
He said he had collated all available details and then created a plot in which his character committed a perfect crime and got away with it.
Bala told the court that he had been treated very badly by the police. "I was hooded, beaten and insulted during three days of interrogation. They were determined to make me confess, but as I had nothing wrong I could not oblige them," he said.
"They knew the book as well as I did. They quoted pieces from it and asked me about the smallest detail. They were determined to make me confess that it was a true story of my life, but I couldn't do that either." Summing up, Judge Hojenska admitted it was unlikely Bala had acted alone in the murder.
He was a small slim man of 5ft 7in whereas his victim was a broadly-built 6ft 3in. But who else had a motive for the murder? After the guilty verdict, Bala was jailed for 25 years for "planning and orchestrating the killing" — there was not enough evidence to show he had carried it out.
Ironically the intense interest in the case has rocketed sales of Amok and made Krystian Bala a wealthy man. He spends his time in jail preparing to sue police for damages and denying that he killed Dariusz Janiszewski. "Just because I write a murder doesn't mean I did it in real life," he said. Meanwhile he is working on another novel — about a man unjustly accused of a murder he didn't commit...