Marija Jurić, pen-name Zagorka (January 1, 1873 – November 30, 1957) was a Croatian journalist and writer. She was the first female journalist and among the most read writers in Croatia.
None of her novels have been translated into English, but two are available in German: The Witch of Gric (1995) and Malleus Maleficarum (1972). The latter title is the same as that of the "textbook" published in 1488 about how to find the witches, though Zagorka's novel is a fictional tale, not a witch-hunting manual. 11 of her novels, published in Croatian, are found in the Library of Congress.
She died in Zagreb at the age of 84.
In a 2005 poll compiled by Vjesnik, a Zagreb daily newspaper, Zagorka came second in the list of most popular Croatian writers of all time.
Kneginja iz Petrinjske ulice (The Princess from Petrinjska Street): Zagorka's first murder mystery.
Grička vještica (The Witch of Grič)- cycle of 7 novels (Secret of the Bloody Bridge, Countess Nera, Malleus Maleficarum, The Rival of Maria Theresa I, The Rival of Maria Theresa II, The Courtly Camarilla, Rebel on the Throne) - Zagorka's most popular work, combining genres of a historical novel, romance and adventure. Set in the second half of the 18th century, it tells the story of a beautiful young Countess Nera Keglević, who was raised isolated from society by her grandmother. Famed for her beauty and open-minded conduct, she becomes the jewel of Zagrebianaristocracy, but her popularity among men causes strong discountenance among envious women who see her as a threat. Due to Nera's attempts of saving unfortunate low class women from witch-burnings, she herself gets accused of witchcraft, which opens a protest of the aristocracy against the law for condemning a member of their society. All complaints to the Queen are soon hindered by the female society, leaving Nera at the mercy of the corrupted law. She is soon saved by the infamous fiery pandur Captain Siniša, who dressed up as the Devil in order to frighten the crowd and abduct her. Eventually Empress Maria Theresa gets informed of the scandalous condemnation of her friend's granddaughter and, by the persuasion of her son Joseph, reverses the process against Nera. Nera and Siniša are soon caught by a new set of social and imperial intrigues threatening the happiness they fought so hard to obtain. The story ends with a look into the tragic life and reign of Emperor Joseph II, the "Rebel on the Throne". The first book, "Secret of the Bloody Bridge", is set in the same period but works as an independent story, unlike the later novels which are thematically tied to the story "Countess Nera". The characters from the first book appear again in the later books. Despite the greater popularity of the second story, this book is widely considered by experts to be Zagorka's best literary work. The book starts with a set of mysterious serial murders, each body found under the Bloody Bridge that connects Grič and Kaptol. The story revolves around Count Juraj Meško who is set on unmasking Baron Makar for the murder of his wife, and a poor servant girl Stanka whom her mistress dresses in the manner of a boy and presents to the society as her young nephew: Lieutenant Stanko. Meško soon grows fond of the little lieutenant and asks for his friendship and help, which Stanka accepts. The girl falls in love with the Count, risking her employment and head by the Baroness. She keeps on assisting the Count who does not recognize or return her love due to his conviction that his little friend is a boy. The story involves genres of adventure, romance, and history present in all of her novels but stands out as the only crime novel next to the Princess of Petrinjska Street.
Kći Lotrščaka (Daughter of the Lotrščak) - A historical romance novel that deals with the 16th century nationalist uprising of the Croatian nobility against the pillaging practices of Margrave Georg von Brandenburg. The book is exceptional for reflecting on numerous old Zagrebian legends and fairytales, presenting elements of the supernatural and religious miracles. It reflects on the famous painting of the "Madonna of the Stone Gate" which became the Holy patron of Zagreb after miraculously surviving a fire while all else, including the painting frame, burned down. The story is centered on the Grič princess Manduša, daughter of the Lotršćak, famed for her gentile kindness, religious upbringing and beauty. When a man named the "Antichrist" arrives at Grič, the clergy condemns him to be executed. After Manduša becomes a social outcast after being accused by the bishop and his mistress of being a child left on her father's doorstep, she decides to sacrifice herself by saving the Antichrist from execution by offering her hand in marriage. They are both banished from the city, at which point the story starts to unfold through the open battle of nobles with The Margrave and the Kaptolian clerics. The story deals with numerous issues such as the nature of marriage bringing up controversial questions such as marriage of Catholic priests.
Plameni inkvizitori (The Flaming Inquisitors) also called Kameni križari (The Stone Crusaders). The story centers around the 13th century historical heroes "Knight Sokol" and the infamous robber Tomo Crni (Black Tomo).
Gordana - Zagorka's longest work, dealing with the death of Arpad King Matthias Corvinus, the struggle between Corvinus's widow Beatrice of Naples and his illegitimate son Janos for the throne, and the events leading up to the Battle of Mohács in the early 16th century. The novel tells the story of the Croatian spirit through the fictional heroine Gordana Brezovačka and her undying national pride.
Vitez slavonske ravni (The Knight of the Slavonian plain) Set in the time of Maria Theresa. It tells the story of an impoverished noblewoman Krasanka and a masked knight who threatens the plundering bands by the use of what they see as "magic". He soon becomes a legend among the lands of Slavonia gaining nicknames such as "The Elf Knight" due to his use of pyrotechnics to frighten the superstitious bandits. It stands out as Zagorka's only literary work that's not thematically connected with Zagreb.
Jadranka - Zagorka's final novel, dealing with the repression of Croatian nationalist movements under the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph.
Kamen na cesti (A Stone on the Road) - An autobiographical novel detailing the author's early life. The main themes are the authors own undying patriotism is which she finds the comfort and reason to overcome all tragedies and obstacles in her life. The story starts in the authors tragic childhood filled with physical abuse from her mother and the neglectance of her father. It describes a wealthy jet unhappy family, where the author herself, though being casually abused by her mother both physically and verbally, is the least mistreated child. Although told in a romanticized style, the book does a lot of psychological introspective of the narrator, analyzing both herself and others. It deals with each situation, opinion, ideal and theory by showing that things aren’t how they present themselves. The center of the plot deals with her mothers decision of marrying her daughter to a 26 year older man, who eventually demands that she abandons her nationality and writes in the Hungarian spirit. The marriage ends with Mirijana refusing to abandon her nationality and becoming a "traitor", after which she elopes to her homeland Croatia, where she received the protection of her friends and father. The tragic deaths of her loved ones are the constant curse the author has to face, which gradually destroys her health and will for life. She eventually finds her cause in serving her nation, and through time gains stronger support. The novel deals with the themes of marriage, family abuse, discrimination and love, where the author concludes that her greatest love and devotion goes to her Croatian country for which she was prepared to sacrifice her wealth, good name, career offers and life, jet sees Croatia's freedom as her greatest joy and treasure.