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The Darkening Field (Captain Alexei Korolev Novels) Hardcover – January 3, 2012

36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


It's a minefield of a mission, but, as Karolev knows full well, failure is never an option with the Ezhovs of the Party, their desk drawers brimming with one-way tickets to Siberia. The appealing Korolev in his second appearance  invites comparison to ...  Stuart Kaminsky's Porfiry Rostnikov. That's high praise indeed.
-- Kirkus Book Reviews

Korolev [is put] in a position that will have readers squirming in suspense for the repercussions each of his actions will have. The Darkening Field joins a long line of Soviet-based mystery series ... I believe Captain Korolev has much more to say, and I look forward to his next outing.
-- Bookreporter

Readers will want to see more of Korolev, a weary but determined cop who puts justice ahead of Stalinist politics--at his peril.
-- Publishers Weekly

Ryan's follow-up does not disappoint. His hero, Captain Alexei Korolev ... dissatisfied and morose, manages to cling to his job and his life while all around him are losing theirs.

Ryan has obviously done much research into that sinister period of Russian history and manages to convey its claustrophobic atmosphere brilliantly.

--The London Times

Praise for The Darkening Field

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 (starred review)

Praise for The Holy Thief

"One of the year's most exciting [debuts].... While the search for Russian icons will bring to mind Martin Cruz Smith's brilliant Gorky Park, Ryan puts a fresh, original spin on the briskly paced The Holy Thief delving into Soviet politics, culture and corruption."
--Oline H. Cogdill, Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Korolev also is a moral, compassionate man who becomes increasingly horrified by Soviet society... This is British writer William Ryan's first historical mystery... One hopes there is more of Korolev to come.”
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Impressive... Ryan, who merits comparison to Tom Rob Smith, makes palpable the perpetual state of fear of being reported as disloyal, besides dramatizing the difficulty of being an honest cop in a repressive police state. Readers will hope Korolev has a long career ahead of him."
--Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Remarkable thriller.... In his solitude and resolve, Ryan's Korolev evokes Martin Cruz Smith's fierce Arkady Renko, while the period detail and gore call to mind Tom Rob Smith."
--Library Journal

“William Ryan brilliantly captures the eerie paranoia of Stalinist Moscow, which serves as an endlessly fascinating background for his compelling tale. This is a non-stop page-turner and a remarkable debut."
--David Liss, author of The Devil’s Company

About the Author

William Ryan is the Irish author of The Holy Thief, which was a Barry Award Nominee for Best First Novel as well as shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and The Irish Fiction Award. The Darkening Field is his second novel. You can visit his highly praised website at

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Product Details

  • Series: Captain Alexei Korolev Novels (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312586515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312586515
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,118,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

William Ryan is an Irish writer, living in London. His first novel, The Holy Thief, was shortlisted for The UK Crime Writer's Association "New Blood" Dagger Award, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, a Barry Award and The Theakstons' Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. The Darkening Field was shortisted for the Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year and The Twelfth Department has been shortlisted for the UK Crime Writer's Association Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award. If you'd like to know more about William and Captain Korolev visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on January 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be en excellent sequel to this author's first book "The Holy Thief". Once again detective Captain Korolev is thrust, against his will, into a politically sensitive investigation of a death of a young woman on a film shoot in Odessa. The problem is that she was a "close friend" of an important colleague of Stalin's, and a powerful man in his own right. Korolev is instructed to investigate, and if the death turns out to be murder, to remember to keep the name of this man out of it.

Our protagonist takes his first plane ride, and upon getting to Odessa, discovers that the death was, indeed, murder and he must to his duty, but within the restrictions imposed upon him. It's a difficult tightrope to walk as he looks into the surrounding facts of the case and interviews the various people involved in shooting the movie, and others in the area. He is assisted by a young and eager female policewoman from Odessa, and seems to be thwarted by the local NKVD man.

Into this mix comes Korolev's old "friends" from the Moscow Thieves, and the tale takes a whole new twist. There is a lot of excitement in the book, and quite a bit of action. Sometime it's difficult to know exactly what's happening, but that's Korolev's view also, and it fits the tone of the book. How does Korolov get everything settled without endangering his own potential transport to the Gulag if he doesn't please his superiors? It's white knuckle time quite often, and the reader tends to be on the edge of his seat.

I look forward to many more books in this excellent series, since it's obvious the author has done extensive research into the times and places about which he writes, and he conveys the implicit spirit of menace and fear very well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In William Ryan's "The Darkening Field," Captain Alexei Dmitriyevich Korolev of Moscow's Criminal Investigation Division is a chain-smoker who sleeps poorly and worries constantly. It is 1937 in Stalinist Russia, where an ill-conceived remark, miscalculation, or a word from a powerful enemy may cost a person his liberty, if not his life. When Maria Alexandrovna Lenskaya (a young production assistant on a state subsidized film) is found dead, Colonel Rodinov, a senior officer in Moscow, orders Korolev to look into the matter discreetly. Was Maria murdered and her death made to look like a suicide? If so, who committed the crime and why? Korolev proceeds with caution, since influential individuals are watching his every move.

Alexei travels to the Ukraine, not far from Odessa, where a film, "The Darkening Field," is being made. He launches his investigation with the able assistance of a sharp and efficient junior detective, Nadezhda Slivka. Alexei interviews various men and women who knew the deceased, including the sinister Major Mushkin, a senior officer with the Ukrainian NKVD; Elizaveta Mushkina, the major's mother; two well-known journalists; Alexei's old friend, author Isaac Babel; Igor Belakovsky, head of the State Film Board; and Count Kolya, the chief of a band of bloodthirsty criminals. Gradually, the pieces of a complicated case involving love affairs, deceit, and betrayal come together, and Korolev finds himself praying (under his breath) that he will somehow emerge unscathed when this perilous operation draws to a close.

Ryan's offers a detailed and atmospheric depiction of a police state, whose citizens are required to publicly endorse the precepts and goals of the Revolution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Zabeth Marsh (book, tv and movie reviewer) on October 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
From the opening paragraph of William Ryan's second novel, The Darkening Field, readers will feel the tension that builds throughout the novel until a climactic ending. Set in 1937 Russia, lead detective Alexei Korolev must navigate his way through a minefield of clues that could solve a murder mystery but also spark political revolution.
It is clear that Ryan is a master not only of plotting a well crafted mystery but also at describing settings and locations so smoothly that the reader will find themselves absent-mindedly rubbing their fingers to keep warm in the novel's cold Russian nights. His hero, Korolev, has a distinct and clear mind that speaks plainly to the reader amid the precarious situation he finds himself in; even if he doesn't dare voice his thoughts out loud to other characters.
Darken Field is a straight murder and mystery novel with only enough personal life information about our characters to establish their motives but not enough to get sidetracked from the main plot. I wish I had read Ryan's first novel, The Holy Thief, before this latest only because I'm looking forward to reading more about Korolev's life during this potentially explosive time in Russian history.
Certainly, this novel can be read purely for its entertainment value and readers would be rewarded for their efforts. However, there is so much more that readers can be intrigued about from this novel. For example, as a detective Korolev relies on a forensic team. My naïve mind couldn't grasp what forensic evidence could be found in 1937. I discovered my error as forensic science has been practiced since the age of Caesar. By 1932 Harvard University had a chair of legal medicine. In addition, Ryan's work will spark interest in post World War I political affairs in Europe. I hope readers take a few moments to review their history and grasp all that they can be inspired to learn from this amazing work of fiction.
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