The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.
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...
Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2013