It's no coincidence that Chief Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov, Stuart Kaminsky's popular Moscow policeman, reads Ed McBain novels. McBain's 87th Precinct and its denizens are a lot like Kaminsky's Office of Special Investigation, and in this 13th outing in the author's series featuring Rostnikov and his colleagues, the parallels are particularly outstanding. Kaminsky, who also pens the Toby Peters, Abe Lieberman, and Lew Fonseca series, has published extensively on Hollywood icons such as Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood, worth noting because his detectives share many of their qualities and more than a little of their style.
This lively thriller has Rostnikov and his investigators working three cases: the disappearance of a cosmonaut; the theft of the final negative of a Russian movie epic on the life of Tolstoy; and the murder of a parapsychologist. Each offers a handful of suspects, motives, and an opportunity for one of Rostnikov's detectives to take center stage: the inspector and his son Iosef on the search for the last survivor of a mission on Mir gone horribly (and secretly) wrong; Sasha, whose wife and children have left him and whose mother is driving him crazy, trying to sort out who's behind the extortion attempt on the movie producer; and Karpo and Zelach, assigned to the murder at the Center for the Study of Technical Parapsychology, where, to Zelach's dismay, his unusual (and unwelcome) telepathic gifts are accidentally discovered by a researcher who won't take no for an answer.
In due time, the cases are solved, the loose ends wrapped up, and the lives and loves of Rostnikov and his men have become as important to the reader as the guys at the 87th Precinct have become over time to McBain's readers. Both authors share a mastery of their craft, an unhurried but intellectually challenging pace, and a gift for characterization that is equaled by few other writers in the genre. --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Even middle-range Rostnikov is better than much other mystery fiction, as Kaminsky proves in his 13th book about the one-legged Moscow policeman, whose stature and resilience fully justify his nickname of "The Washtub." The three cases that occupy Rostnikov this time around have neither the depth nor the range of the crimes in 1999's exceptional The Dog Who Bit a Policeman, but taken together they do provide a sad picture of a country thrashing about in search of an identity. Rostnikov, a man enough at home in the world to sing softlyAalbeit in garbled EnglishAthe lyrics of a Creedence Clearwater Revival song during a rainstorm, is once again our perfect guide. He and his failed-actor-turned-cop son, Iosef, spend most of their time searching for a missing cosmonaut, one of the crew of the beleaguered Mir space station, who happened to mention Rostnikov's name on a tape before something bad happened in space that made him disappear after his return to Earth. Iosef's lover, Elena Timofeyeva, and her partner, Sasha, are involved with a nasty and pompous film producer, whose epic film on the life of Tolstoy has been stolen by people who want the producer dead. And Emil Karpo, Rostnikov's deliberately unimaginative deputy, is leading the investigation into the murder of an unpopular scientist at the Center for the Study of Technical Parapsychology. All these cases turn out to be less absorbing than they at first seem, but Rostnikov and his team are so vivid and palpable that it almost doesn't matter. (Sept.)
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