"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, September 14, 2009

The White Russian

TITLE: The White Russian
AUTHOR: Tom Bradby

A historical mystery set in St. Petersburg on the brink of revolution, the novel opens with the discovery of a brutally murdered couple near the winter palace of the tsar. The chief investigator, Sandro Ruzsky, comes from a privileged family; his father is a government official and his younger brother is a soldier. Sandro, just returned from exile in Siberia, is somewhat of a black sheep in his family, separated from his wife and longing to see his young son. He's also a man out of touch with the current political reality and his unwillingness to let go of what turns out to be a politically charged case that involves the secret police and reaches into the tsar's household, puts everything Sandro holds dear at risk.

Nor can Sandro let go of his near obsession with a beautiful ballerina and his pursuit of her leads him to learn things he'd rather not know. Bradby weaves what seem to be separate plotlines into a singular fabric as Sandro pursues the truth, and his attention to detail and careful research put me into St. Petersburg of 1917. The poverty and anger of the city's working class and unemployed, the growing desperation of Russians worn down by lack of adequate food and supplies and the continued fighting of the Great War is brought to life in these pages.

In his determination and with his flaws, Sandro is a very human character, one you can feel for even while fearing he's doomed. The political intrigue is well done, even if I figured out who was probably the killer before the reveal.

I loved Bradby's earlier book, The Master of Rain, and I can't wait to see what's next.