Recommended Read: The Twelfth Department by William Ryan

Crime Fiction, noir, recommended reads, Russia, William Ryan

the 12th deptParanoia and tension  permeate 1930s Moscow in The Twelfth Department, William Ryan’s third mystery novel to feature the ever harried Moscow police detective Captain Korolev. The tightly-woven story kicks off with a fast moving prologue, as Korolev and his cohorts capture the head of the Grey Fox gang in one of Moscow’s parks. This is a neat little scene with a great sense of time and place and smartly introduces us to some of the major players in The Twelfth Department’s cast of characters.

After this case, Korolev is supposed to be on leave, taking care of his estranged son Yuri for the week, but this is interrupted when Professor Boris Azarov, Director of the mysterious Azarov Institute is shot dead in an exclusive apartment, in the shadow of the Kremlin.

Almost as soon as he starts his investigation, however, Korolev is taken off the case. So he heads off to the countryside with Yuri but there is a knock on the door in the middle of the night, Korlev is dragged back to Moscow and Yuri goes missing.

The Twelfth Department is an engrossing and satisfying follow up to its cracking predecessors The Holy Thief and The Bloody Meadow.

Ryan’s atmospheric writing is typically smooth and full of vivid, cinematic images. The story is a compelling, twisting and turning  investigation and Korolev and the other characters are very well drawn- especially Count Kolya, leader of the Moscow Thieves. All in all, fantastic stuff.

Recommended Read: The Bloody Meadow by William Ryan

Crime Fiction, recommended reads, Russia, William Ryan
It’s 1937 and at the close of a particularly harsh winter, Moscow Militia detective Captain Alexei Korolev receives an ominous  knock on the door in the dead of night.
Korolev-  despite recently being  decorated after the events in William Ryan‘s cracking previous novel, The Holy Thief – expects the worse – to be dispatched to certain death in one of Siberia’s frozen prison camps.
However, he is, in fact, sent off to a film set in Odessa, to investigate the apparent suicide of a young woman who was a ‘very close’ friend of the Commissar for State Security.
Like  The Holy Thief, The Bloody Meadow throbs with a sense of paranoia and fear, as Korolev carefully negotiates the tangled spider web of Stalinist Russia while trying to get to the bottom of the case.

The Bloody Meadow is an immensely satisfying murder mystery that is packed with great characters -including some familiar faces from The Holy Thief – and strong on atmosphere. Korolev himself is a particularly likeable protagonist who constantly struggles with the duality of his position and the need to do the right thing.
Ryan’s great descriptive skills are really to the fore in The Bloody Meadow, which is sometimes so richly cinematic the it makes you wish that Carole Reed were still alive in order to faithfully adapt the book for the silver screen.
The Bloody Meadow is a fantastic follow up to The Holy Thief, which comfortably confirms the Korolev series as must reads and William Ryan as very much ‘the real deal.’
Can’t wait for the next one.