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13 November 2018

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The Twelfth Department

By William Ryan

...With The Twelfth Department, William Ryan, takes us back in time another three decades, to a decidedly chillier time in Soviet history: 1937.

In this, the third in Ryan’s series of detective novels featuring detective Alexei Korolev, once again Korolev must tiptoe along a razor’s edge, balancing personal stresses (in this case his son is in the city for a long overdue visit) and professional hazards. As in Bayer’s book, a top official is murdered and the secret police has its tentacles all wrapped around the Truth. Korolev must find a way to piece together the clues without himself getting ensnared.

As noted in this space in a review of Ryan’s last book, he is one of the best modern writers in the emerging Soviet/Russian mystery genre for getting things right. There is a believable sense of the era and the characters are true to what we know of people living through the horrors of Stalin’s regime. But his Korolev is by no means a cardboard automaton or even a by-the-book militia officer. He is a Believer and something of a risk taker, yet he also would just like a contented, uncomplicated life. But then that does not make for very interesting mysteries...

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2013