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by Phili Kerr
Warner Books, June 1995
254 pages
$out of print
ISBN: 0446403792

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

An unnamed Moscow detective has been assigned to investigate corruption in the town of St. Petersburg. The assignment is temporary, and he works with a detective squad headed by a man named Yevgeni Ivanovich Grushko, covering his real intentions with a story about viewing how the local police in St. Petersburg handle the Mafia element. To all appearances, Grushko is a very honest man, and he opens his department to the Moscow detective, who lives and works with his men over a period of time.

When a prominent anti-Mafia journalist is murdered, the Moscow detective is an active participant in the investigation and seeks to learn his secrets from his widow. What is uncovered is far worse than a mere murder; the Mafia has instituted a scheme that could negatively impact the entire Russian population, all in the name of making a financial killing.

The story is set in modern-day Russia, and Kerr excels at revealing life as it is lived at the high and low end of the social scale. He poignantly writes of the deprivations and hard times of the Russian people, the shortage of the necessities, the never-ending lines for the basics, the expense to have anything other than the mundane and ordinary. At the same time, he builds wonderful characters about whom the reader really cares‹I certainly did not want to find that Grushko was corrupt, for example, in spite of the fact that would be a plausible outcome, given the hardships faced.

Justly nominated for the Gold Dagger Award in 1994, this is an excellently written mystery revealing much about post-Cold War Europe, as well as portraying the inner workings of a typical Russian police department. The procedures don't vary too much from their European and American counterparts, but the Russians are severely limited in what they have available to get the job done. The police are subject to the same kind of chronic shortages as the general populace and just as open to the appeal of the luxuries that the Mafia has to offer. The realistic depiction of daily life in modern-day Russia coupled with an engrossing police investigation make this book an excellent read.

Reviewed by Maddy Van Hertbruggen, January 2003

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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