From Publishers Weekly
Kerr's most recent novel, A Philosophical Investigation , takes place in England in the near future, while his three-volume Bernhard Gunther series, begun with March Violets , is set in 1930s Berlin. Here he turns to modern-day Russia to trace an electrifying battle between the anemically funded Russian police and well-heeled ethnic Mafiosi who operate at will in post-Soviet St. Petersburg. An anonymous narrator--an Internal Affairs-type lawyer--monitors detective Yevgeni Ivanovich Grushko's efforts to nail mob thugs for the murder of an investigative journalist who had aired Mafia laundry and government scandal on TV. Grushko rousts the Ukrainian and Chechen mobsters, who rival the Georgians in the proliferation of scams, protection rackets and black-market action marking Russia's emerging private-sector economy. Struggling to investigate amid such impediments as red tape, public distrust of police, KGB rivalry, low police morale and minimal resources, Grushko even appeals for leads on a Geraldo Rivera-like show. While the detective inches toward a resolution connecting the Chernobyl disaster, the mob and a British-backed Russian capitalist venture, the narrator falls for the journalist's sexy widow and learns hard lessons from Grushko about fighting for justice in an unhinged society. In Kerr's literate dark novel, strains of romantic balalaika music blend with the sound of the sharp wind sweeping across the steppes. Readers will hope for more appearances of this new man from Moscow.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Mikhail Milyukin, Russia's first investigative journalist, is found executed Mafia-style. Finding his killers and the reason for the murder falls to relentless militia officer Yevgeni Grushko. This novel works both as a gritty cop novel in a unique setting and as a lens on a troubled and tragic country. Kerr really did his homework; he secured the cooperation of the St. Petersburg militia's organized crime unit, rode with its officers, and took part in several operations against the Mafia. His research gives the book special weight, for example, in his explanations of the ethnic foundations of Russia's gangs. The language of cops and thugs alike has a wonderfully quirky but authentic sound; strikes against the Mafia are "realisations." Equally important, however, Kerr lived with the incredible privations that nearly all Russians endure. His illumination of those hardships in the lives of his characters is almost painful at times, and the startling crime uncovered by Grushko has a terrible plausibility in grim contemporary Russia. Thomas Gaughan