Monthly Archives: December 2019

A Cold Red Sunrise – Stuart Kaminsky

A Cold Red Sunrise by Stuart Kaminsky is the fifth Inspector Rostnikov novel. It was published in 1988 a time of turmoil in the Soviet but not reflected in the macro level of this story. No, this is a basic investigation of the murder of a minor Commissar who was conducting an investigation at the time of his murder. The fact that this assignment was pass to Colonel Snitkonoy’s MVD Unit makes Rostnikov suspicious. But, an assignment is an assignment and its off to the scene of the crime.

In this case, Portnoy Rostnikov and his trusty aide Emil Karpo are on their was to sunny but snowy Siberia. Joining them is an investigator with the Kiev office of the Procurator, He is to learn from the inspector good sound methodology of investigation. But who is really reporting to whom? Who watches the watchers? And in macro political jockeying amongst the myriad of Soviet Investigative services who will be gaining power?

Good, sound methods leading to good sound reports can often be as useful as good sound justice.

Rostnikov’s deep brown eyes met the Wolfhound’s soberly and he nodded in agreement, though he agreed with almost nothing the handsome military figure in front of him had said. Rostnikov had been with the MVD for more than four months. He was certain that his and the Colonel’s views of the criminal mind were not at all similar, partly because Rostnikov did not believe in a criminal mind. There were evil people, true—stupid, selfish, brutish people—even a good number of quite insane people, but few who thought themselves so. Mostly there were people who considered themselves quite decent, quite compassionate, quite reasonable. They got carried away with their emotions, beliefs or assumed needs and broke the law, sometimes quite violently. The only minds that Rostnikov thought might reasonably be identified as criminal belonged to certain kinds of bureaucrats who had the opportunity and desire to engage in ongoing illegal activities.

The Romanov Prophecy – Steve Berry

The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry a stand alone novel by Ballentine Books published in 2004. Its one of those historical fiction novels, a suspense thriller melding fact with fiction with flat-out action and political intrigue. And I’m a sucker for these kinds onf novels when they are done right, and this one is very well done.

Seems our hero, an African-American attorney Miles Lord working for a law firm vetting a candidate for Czar. Yes, after the fall on communism and a series of week democratic governments, a paralyzed political apparatus and a popular referendum has brought about a Czarist Commission to restore the Romanov Monarchy. There are certain criteria a candidate needs to meet, and a cabal of powerbrokers has coalesced around Stefan Baklanov as the future Czar. Unbeknownst to Miles, his boss Taylor Hayes is a member of the cabal. So, when Miles uncovers documents in the Soviet Archives that there may be a current direct descendant of Czar Nicholas, a survivor of the Romanov massacre, a globetrotting race to find the truth begins.

With Miles’s boss keeping tabs, a nasty group of Russians follow Miles and a young Russian woman helping him. They are highly motivated to stop the them in their tracks and make sure that a prophecy of Rasputin never comes to fruition.



   “Recalling again Lenin’s note Alexandria’s message, he decided to see what Pashenko knew.       
“Have you given any more thought to what I showed you yesterday in the archives?”
   The older man grinned. “I understand your worry. What if there is a direct descendant from Nicholas II still alive? Tat would negate every claim from every Romanov, save that one. Surely, Mr. Lord, you cannot believe anyone survived the massacre at Yekaterinburg?”
   “I don’t know what to believe. But, no, if the accounts of the massacre are accurate, no one survived. Still, Lenin seemed to doubt the reports. I mean, there’s no way Yurovsky was going to tell Moscow he was two bodies short.”
   “I agree. Though there is now indisputable evidence that was precisely the case. The bones of Alexie and Anastasia are gone.”

A Fine Red Rain – Stuart M. Kaminsky

A Fine Red Rain by Stuart M. Kaminsky is the fourth novel in the Inspector Rostnikov series written in 1987. I read the kindle edition from Mysteriouspress.com even though I have a copy of the Ivy Books paperback. I just find it easier somehow to take notes on the kindle. I’m starting to get much more comfortable being able to whip it our and read almost anything almost anywhere. Besides, the paperback is starting to show its age a bit.

But this story really highlights Inspector Rostnikov’s deep-set sense of curiosity. While out near the park on a lightly raining morning, investigating a trivial matter as part of his diminished duties, he observes a disturbed drunken individual atop a tall statue. Ranting as some people do, the inspector pays scant attention. Until the man leaps from the statue to his death below. Something within the inspector takes note. Although there is a corpse on the ground, there is a question in the air. Why.

Rostnikov had recently been transferred “on temporary but open-ended duty” to the MVD—the police, uniformed and ununiformed, who directed traffic, faced the public, and were the front line of defense against crime and for maintenance of order. As he reports in for the morning meeting he takes his place with the other senior staff. In going over the day’s assignments he recounts the story of the apparent suicide.

You would think that curiosity would be a central motivator for most of the detectives here in the Moscow that Kaminsky shows us so clearly, but it’s suspicion, a misplaced distrustful emotion amongst the Gray Wolfhound’s senior staff that pervades the unit. They are typical of the suspicion, not curiosity that pervades the police investigative unit. Their suspicion fuels unproductive speculation, where as Rostnikov’s curiosity fuels productive questions… the who, what where… and crucially, the ‘why’ of people and their actions and intentions. Its curiosity that leads Rostnikov to take as his assignment an investigation into an apparently unrelated accidental death of a circus performer.

At a local circus there is a performer, and aerialist who was fallen through an unsecure safety net. Though there is a corpse there on the ground, there is a question lingering in the air. Why. And is it just curious coincidence that the aerialist’s partner just leapt from a statue this morning?

But the ending, the scene of Inspector Rostnikov at Gogol’s statue in the park, the ‘full circle’ as it where, that really had a gut impact on me. I could feel the scene in a tangible way that few writers can achieve.

  “We must have an adequate termination of a greater percentage of our cases, our responsibilities,” said Grigorovich, looking at Rostnikov, who continued to frown at the pad of paper on which he was doodling.

   “Paperwork, evidence, must be more complete, investigations better documented, before we turn each case over to the Procurator’s Office for prosecution or further investigation,” Grigorovich went on.

   “Yes,” Pankov agreed.

   “Comrade Inspector,” the Wolfhound said, snapping the pointing finger of his right hand at Rostnikov. “Your views? You have had time to gather your thoughts. Perhaps your delay this morning was due to your diligence in preparing for this meeting?”

   “This morning,” said Rostnikov slowly, his eyes coming up from the poor copy of Gogol’s statue he was working on, “a man leaped to his death from the new Gogol statue.”

  The silence was long as they waited for Rostnikov to continue. Outside and below them, in the police-dog compound, a German shepherd began to bark and then suddenly went quiet. When it became evident that Rostnikov had no thoughts of continuing, Snitkonoy prodded as he stepped back and tilted his head.

  “And the point of this, Comrade Inspector?”

  Grigorovich and Pankov turned their eyes to Rostnikov, who sighed, shrugged, and looked up.

   “I wondered what would so frighten a man that he would do a thing like that,” Rostnikov mused. “Leap head-first to the pavement. Crush his skull like an overripe tomato.”