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5.0 out of 5 starsReturn to Russia, with love
Reviewed in the United States on December 30, 2015
How many Inspector Rostnikov novels--15? 20?--and there will be no more, because the author passed away in 2009, with A Whisper to the Living being published posthumously in 2011. I have read these works on and off for the past twelve years or so, after having visited post-Communist Russia twice. It is a haunting place, incredibly harsh and alive. The people are gruff but have hearts of gold. I think of my experiences there almost daily even now. Kaminsky's novels bring it all back so vividly. I recently purchased the rest of the set on Amazon, and read all of them in chronological order. I highly recommend you do the same. No one of them stands out for me--I take them together, as a kind of extended novel, a slice of Russian life,best savored with some borscht, sausage and pelmeni, on a chill winter's evening.
3.0 out of 5 starsToo many variables, not enough depth
Reviewed in the United States on August 21, 2008
I'm also a fan who's been waiting for the first new Rostnikov novel in seven years, but I'm afraid I ended up agreeing with the previous reviewer who said "... Too large a cast, too many places and too many plot lines occupying a short two hundred eighty-seven pages."
There's just way too much going on here and not enough space to develop it which results in most of the minor characters feeling interchangeable and redundant. We have two psychopaths, Kolokov and Balta, who seem a lot alike; two scheming beautiful women Oxana, and Rochelle; two determined "everyman" types, James Harumbaki and Luc the Canadian; two eccentric old guys Boris and Gennadi Ivanov.
The two old guys don't get viewpoints, but all the others do as do a lecherous Polish-Ukrainian cop, an English diamond tycoon, Rostnikov's boss the Yak, and a couple of the three Botswanan henchmen involved in the action. For me, it's too much information touched upon so shallowly that it's hard to keep in mind and starts distracting from the story.
The good points: hey, this is a new installment in the Rostnikov series, and we fans have got to be glad that the series is moving forwards even if this is one of the "off" books.
Also good: 1. A suspenseful premise with the possible destruction of Rostnikov's department, and reassignment of all personnel, in nine days depending on resolution of the case. 2. Several examples of Rostnikov's quirky dialog in which he engages with, and pokes fun at, several characters. He comes across as deeply curious about people in a compassionate way which makes him memorable. 3. Space was somehow carved out of the cluttered narrative to focus a little more in-depth on two of the more interesting cops on Rostnikov's staff: Karpo and Sasha. I wish a bit more had been done with Karpo who still seems like a bomb waiting to explode. But Sasha's situation with his ex-wife and kids injected some realism and emotional connection into a story that was becoming too hectic.
My first Amazon review critiqued Kaminsky's MURDER ON THE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS, but it's been 410 reviews since Stuart Kaminsky has published another Porfiry Rostnikov mystery.
PEOPLE WHO WALK IN DARKNESS has more holes than a plate of Swiss cheese, but I was so happy to see Rostnikov and his crew that I didn't mind all that much. Kaminsky spends the first part of the book reminding us about the personal lives of Rostnikov, Karpo, Tkach, Elena and the rest. They've hardly changed at all. Elena and Porfiry's son Iosif are still contemplating marriage. Karpo is still his austere self. Porfiry still lifts weights and helps his neighbors with their plumbing.
The only difference in this episode is that all of the members of the Office of Special Investigations are working on the same case, a diamond-smuggling caper originating in a mine in Siberia. Although he hates flying, Porfiry and Karpo fly to Siberia to investigate a murder at the mine. Porfiry's half brother just happens to be the manager of a mine in the area. Elena and Tkach are sent to Kiev to look into the murder of a diamond courier. Kiev is where his wife has relocated after leaving Tkach. Iosif and Zelach pursue a Botswanian gang that's also pursuing the missing diamonds. One of the problems with the book is that there are too many characters to keep them all straight. For instance, there's a character named Balta who seems to be biding his time to swoop in and grab the diamonds. You will not believe the complication Kaminsky throws in involving this character. There's another villain named Gerald St. James back in England who seems to be a puppeteer pulling all the strings. If this sounds complicated, I've only scratched the surface.
Rostnikov is still working for the Yak, but another branch of the investigations unit wants to swallow up Special Investigations, and the Yak has given Porfiry only nine days to solve the case and save the unit. Of course he does, in the nick of time, but you won't believe the ending or that Porfiry would condone such a resolution.
Perhaps the best thing about PEOPLE WHO WALK is the interplay between Rostnikov and Karpo; Porfiry likes to tease the ex-communist who has no sense of humor. Unfortunately there's very little of that in this number. Maybe next time. Sadly, Kaminsky recently died, and there's only one episode left. A WHISPER TO THE LIVING will be available in January,2010.
Every one of Stuart Kaminsky books featuring Moscow detective Porfiry Rostnikov is a gem. I have read them all four or five times and the enjoyment factor remains as high as if each reading were the first. TEN stars!
So sad that Kaminsky is dead. I found all the Inspector Rostnikov books from used sources and would keep buying them if only there were new ones to enjoy. Since the Rostnikov series spanned the height of the USSR, then the breakaway of many satellite countries, the backstory of how the police bureaucracies shifted as power tides shifted was always interesting as Rostnikov added new stories about various lawbreakers. Wish there was more to read.
A wonderful combination of characters plot and action. Kaminsky writes beautifully. Gang of endearing and weird good guys, lots of scary strange and even pathetic bad guys, flying around today's Russia. Bloody and clever.