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.