Murder On The Trans-Siberian Express: A Portifry Petrovich Rostinikov Novel Hardcover – Oct 24 2001
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Penzler Pick, December 2001: This is a compulsively readable tour de force that keeps more balls in the air than a pitching machine. On top of that, in this 14th novel featuring the one-legged Moscow cop Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, Stuart Kaminsky once again catapults us straight from our armchairs into the mindset of modern Russia in all its perverse dysfunctions.
Kaminsky must have had fun cooking up the plotlines, which ingeniously plunder the storage bins of mystery history. There's everything from a Jane the Ripper to homages to train-bound thrillers like The Lady Vanishes, North by Northwest, and the more obvious Murder on the Orient Express. At the same time, there's the conscious, skillfully presented element of social realism, an aspect that never intruded into the action of any of those tales. Kaminsky is wonderfully artful at conveying the pervasive cynicism that comes with the territory at all strata of existence in the former Soviet Union, and he does it without ever being repetitious. At an organic level, it seeps into and informs every level of the mystery as it unfolds.
One must marvel at the manipulations of the political and legal systems engaged in by Chief Inspector Rostnikov and his dedicated colleagues as they endeavor to deliver the semblance of a not-always-welcome law and order. To top it off, there are some terrific set-piece scenes, such as when the policeman Zelach reveals his unexpected familiarity with heavy-metal arcana as he and his partner interrogate some punks about a missing pal.
Kaminsky won the Edgar Allan Poe award in 1989 for the Rostnikov mystery A Cold Red Sunrise. Reading Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express, it's not hard to understand why, only difficult to know how he keeps the series' quality so high. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
Edgar-winner Kaminsky's 14th Rostnikov novel (after 2000's Fall of a Cosmonaut), about the imperturbable one-legged Russian policeman, weightlifter, plumber and family man, lacks narrative force due to its episodic structure. But while it may not be one of the author's best, his cast of oddball characters and view of post-Soviet Russia continue to fascinate. Chief Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, now working for Moscow's Office of Special Investigation and reporting to its director, Igor Yaklovev, gets assigned with one of his men to ride the 6,000-mile Trans-Siberian Express to intercept a courier exchanging money for a package somewhere along the route. Yaklovev believes the package contains a 100-year-old secret document belonging to Czar Nicholas II; Rostnikov follows orders, though he knows there's much his boss hasn't told him. Meanwhile, detectives Iosef Rostnikov, the chief inspector's son, and Elena Timofeyeva lead the effort to locate a madwoman whose seemingly random knife attacks have injured or slain three men in four weeks at subway stops. And detectives Emil Karpo and Zelach pursue a kidnapped rock rebel called Naked Cossack, who happens to be the son of a powerful Jewish magnate. The result is a busy and entertaining trio of stories woven together with vignettes about the building of the Trans-Siberian railway.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
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1. Porfiry Rostnikov, the seasoned Moscow cop with a plastic leg, along with Sasha Tkach is on a mission on the title train in a compartment with a couple of Americans, an intriguing female agent and Pavel Cherkasov, Russia's answer to Henny Youngman. Igor (the Yak) Yaklovev is Rostnikov's Machiavellian boss. He thrives running a police department in a society that acknowledges law enforcement but has no clearly accepted laws and has his own reasons for sending them on the assignment.
2. Rostnikov's son Iosef and partner Elena are chasing Inna, a psycho whose answer to a father's lack of attention is to plunge a kitchen knife into Moscow commuters who remind her of him.
3. Emil Karpo another hardened police vet and his more mystical junior partner Zelach are looking for the missing lead singer in a skinhead rock band. The Naked Cossack, whose real name is Misha Lovski, is the son of a Rupert Murdoch like Moscow media mogul rebelling against his father's life.
The investigations weave through each chapter moving toward independent but simultaneous conclusions. The drama of the chase or who did what to whom, however, is the sideshow. The real story is about how Kaminsky's characters react to what happens around them, both on and off the job. In the end it's not about justice but rather Rostnikov and the Yak manipulating each other to preserve what passes for order in their chaotic worlds. Even if you can't remember their names or identify with their lifestyles, you'll know what makes Kaminsky's characters tick and empathize with the way each plays the hand life has dealt.
In his Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov series, Stuart M. Kaminsky has deftly transplanted the Ed McBain police procedural to Russia: individual detectives, each having his/her own serial back stories, (Zelach has a much larger piece this time than he ever has,) investigating different cases. This is all played out against a panoramic backdrop through the time span of the series: the disintegration of the former Soviet Union.
It's not easy trying to be a force for Law and Order in a country having tenuous little of either:
"The laws of Russia were a shambles: a basis in old Soviet law, assumptions of common sense and vague precedents, smatterings of Western manipulations gleaned from reruns of "Law and Order," "L.A. Law," "Rumpole of the Bailey," and ancient black-and-white episodes of "Perry Mason."
The law, in short, was whatever the politically appointed and frequently corrupt judges wanted it to be. While corruption and politics pervaded the old Soviet system, there were still occasional Communist zealots on the bench who stood behind and believed in the oppressive laws in the books they seldom read.
Now the law was written by Kafka."
In the 14th installment of the series, the men and sole woman of the Office of Special Investigations are plunged into the Russian underground heavy metal/neo-Nazi music scene, the Moscow metro subway system, and, of course, riding the Trans-Siberian Express. Prolific author Kaminsky gives the reader a feel for the people and politics while raconting a riveting tale.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I have never read anything by Kaminsky and solely on the basis of reader reviews, I tried this one. Alas, 'twas a fizzle. Mildly interesting but basically fluff. Read morePublished on Oct. 31 2002 by Sonechka
In my humble opinion the Porfiry Rostnikov mystery series is the best one going. It rivals Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park for a realistic portrayal of Russia. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2002 by Dave Schwinghammer
In Russia, the concept of law and justice has been shaken. Mafias rule towns and even regions, powerful men battle for even more power, and the ghosts of the Soviet and Imperial... Read morePublished on Dec 28 2001 by booksforabuck
In modern Russia the law is written by Kafka & Chief Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov of the Moscow Police who must unravel the abduction of a skinhead rock star known as The Naked... Read morePublished on Dec 5 2001 by Rebecca Brown