Russia in the early twenty-first century: a civil war has subsided into an uneasy peace; police inspector Constantin Vadim is transferred from Murmansk to head an investigation in a crime-ridden Moscow district.
His task: to solve a succession of brutal murders committed by a killer who has become a terrifying local legend: The Monstrum.
But Vadim has never investigated a murder. The real reason for his transfer is his uncanny resemblance to the new vice-president, Koba - Vadim is his double.
Why has he been given the impossible mission to find The Monstrum?
Is the case linked to the new government? Vadim finds himself on the bloodstained social fringe of Moscow and the very centre of the new Russia - a position which attracts the attention of his estranged wife, Julia Petrovna, a general in the defeated Anarchist army.
Her capture would be a high prize for the men who run Vadim's life. And as Vadim pursues The Monstrum these two worlds move inexorably closer to one another, threatening both to crush the inspector before he can capture the killer and the emerging democracy before it is fully formed.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 512 pages
- Publisher: Cornerstone
- Publication Date: 26/03/1998
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9780099226321
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Review by alanteder
The setup here had a lot of promise. A post-civil war Russia is imagined in the year 2015. A Russian Nationalist side has won out over a Russian Anarchist/Communist side. A provincial detective from Murmansk is elevated to a Moscow district murder squad due to his friendship with an ambitious officer of the secret police (still nicknamed the Chekists here, as they have been since the Russian Stalinist era) and not so coincidentally due to his physical resemblance to the current Nationalist Vice-President named Leonid Koba and as it turns out also due to his former wife having been a general in the losing Anarchist Army. The various political gamesmanship plays out while the detective pursues an investigation to find a serial killer known as the Monstrum. By the end though, too many coincidences have been piled on top of too many absurd situations which are only briefly clarified and that just made this reader angrier the longer the book went on. The cover blurb from The Times compared this to Fatherland, Gorky Park and The Silences of the Lambs, but I'd have to say it fell far short of the mark set by those top thrillers. It came closest to Fatherland with having at least a plausible alternate history backdrop painted in. The Russian atmosphere and character building seemed to consist of everybody drinking large quantities of vodka, Gorky Park seemed like much more of a ground-breaker in giving us an entry to some Russian spirit and soul. There was none of the macabre thrill of villains such as Hannibal Lector and Jamie Gumb from Lambs.