Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Review of A Cold Red Sunrise by Stuart Kaminsky (1988, Ballantine)

In a remote village in Siberia the young daughter of a soon to be political-exile has died. The commissar sent to investigate her death is murdered by an icicle thrust through his eye. Inspector Porfiry Rostnikpov is sent from Moscow to investigate the commissar’s murder, but is instructed not to investigate the death of the young girl, even if the two are related. Rostnikpov’s career is on a downward spiral; he manages to expose political and police corruption and gain justice but pays in being reassigned and sidelined. And it seems that some hope that the trip to Siberia will finish him off for good, either falling foul of the two officers sent to spy on his investigation or going the same way as the commissar. In freezing conditions, Rostnikpov quizzes the inhabitants and tries to identify a murderer while also outwitting his companions.

A Cold Red Sunrise is the fifth book of the Inspector Rostnikpov series set in Russia. This outing, published in 1988, shows slight hints of the Glasnost era, though the Soviet regime is very much in place. Rostnikpov is an interesting character – a stoic, cunning man with an injured leg, who is obsessed with weight-lifting and solving crimes, and manages to maintain high principles yet survive the political machinations of the Soviet policing and intelligence services. In this tale, Rostnikpov is sent to Siberia to investigate the death of a commissar who had been investigating the suspicious death of the daughter of a soon-to-be political exile. Nobody in the small village seems happy with his presence and his prime tactic is to subtly unsettle the locals to try and provoke a reaction. It’s a dangerous move given what happened to the commissar. Like Rostnikpov and Siberia, the storytelling is spartan, being all show and no tell. There’s a strong sense of place and contextualisation as to the politics of living and working in the Soviet regime. At one level the story seems relatively straightforward and uncomplicated, but as it nears its conclusion Kaminsky reveals some nice twists that make perfect sense but are nonetheless surprising. Overall, an engaging and entertaining police procedural.

1 comment:

Rick Robinson said...

One of my favorites in the series, and a terrific novel. Thanks for the review, I think it's time for me to do a re-read.