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

4.3 out of 5 stars 40 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 william-ryan.com.

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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was published by Minotaur in the USA 2011. The same book is published by Macmillian in the UK 2011 under the title BLOODY MEADOW. Mr. Ryan is a great author. But there is no need to buy both books.
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It’s 1937. The Soviet Union, still reeling from its drive to collectivization and the elimination of the so-called kulaks (rich peasants), is now in the grips of the terror Stalin has initiated to purge the Party, the army, and Soviet society in general of anyone who so much as breathes a hint of opposition to him or any questions about the superiority of the Soviet system. Official Soviet figures showed that at least 12 million people died as a direct or indirect result of these draconian policies — and some military historians speculate that the USSR came perilously close to losing World War II because of Stalin’s elimination of so much of the army’s senior officer corps.

A murder mystery set during Stalin’s terror

William Ryan sets the second novel in his three-book series of murder mysteries, The Darkening Field (The Bloody Meadow in the UK), in the midst of these unsettled times. Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev, a detective in the Soviet militia (police) is awakened from sleep at 2:00 am and summoned to meet with the feared Colonel Rodinov of the NKVD, forerunner of the KGB. Though he assumes he will be arrested and dispatched to Siberia, or worse, the Colonel simply informs him that he has been assigned to look into the presumed suicide of a young woman working on a movie set near Odessa in present-day Ukraine. For unstated reasons, Korolev must be discreet, pretending that he is on vacation and not engaged in an investigation unless it is established that the woman did not commit suicide. Frighteningly, the order to assign Korolev has come down from the Commissar of State Security who heads the NKVD.
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