It is 1937, and Captain Alexei Korolev finds himself on an airplane bound for Odessa after the suspicious suicide of a loyal young party member who supposedly had an illicit relationship with the party director. His instructions are to determine if her suicide was actually a cover-up for murder, and if so, to find her killer. She was working on the set of a movie subsidized by the state, and the pool of possible suspects is large and daunting. Korolev finds help from several quarters, but none of them can make up for the one important fact of his case which he cannot discuss. Moral, loyal, and also committed to justice, Korolev is trapped between the demands of the party and those of the truth.
"Booklist lauded Ryan's first Korolev novel, The Holy Thief, and this successor fully delivers on the promise of that judgment. Korolev is a wonderful character, a spiritual ancestor of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko, persevering amid the murderous paranoia of Stalin's Russia. The plot is intricate, the action satisfying, and Ryan's use of period detail, including the brutal 'collectivization' of the Ukraine and that region's nationalist and anarchist movements, makes for exhilarating reading." (Booklist)
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