I cannot comprehend why no one has rated this book so far. It is an amazing book, which effectively provides almost all keys and answers to what was widely believed to be one of the greatest mysteries of the century. The murder of Kirov acquired enormous significance in the course of the Soviet history and, thus, in the global history as well. It ushered the Great Terror and, to many, for a long time had dashed any hope for a gradual transformation of the communist regime into something with a "human face". Who was behind this murder, what role Kirov could have played had he been not killed - all these questions lingered for almost seven decades since then. Many people tried to offer their versions, from party leaders to Kirov's personal acquaintances to Western scholars, and it is only now that Matt Lenoe puts the issue practically to rest.
I was waiting for this book for a number of years since first finding minor bits and pieces on the subject which Matt Lenoe presented in Sapporo (available online but still marked "not for quotation") after he found some clues to the mystery in the old Japanese newspapers covering the so called "Lyushkov affair". It took much longer than expected, but the outcome turned to be vastly exceeding my expectations. It is a virtual encyclopedia of Leningard/USSR life of the 1930s spanning from humble travails of Nikolaev and his family and friends to murky political fights within party and NKVD top circles. It thoroughly debunks the myth of Kirov as a possible alternative to Stalin.
Lenoe's analysis of various investigations of the murder carried out over the decades is absolutely masterful. It is as fascinating as any crime fiction, as people tend to constantly change their stories and versions to accommodate immediate political concerns, to avoid torture, and to present themselves in a more favorable light. and at the end Lenoe is able to deduct some secrets still hidden in security archives, like who among the victims of the first of many Kirov-related court processes was an agent provocateur, and what could be the real cause of wild denunciations by an apparently mad Volkova.
I have only two very minor corrections to Lenoe's narrative related to complex historical toponymics of Leningrad/St.Petersburg and the way it is presented in the book. As the story evolves mostly on the streets and squares of this great city, readers could be assisted if the Map 4 is slightly expanded to give more perspective. The note to this map could be corrected as it covers not Vyborg (a city which at that time was not even within the borders of the USSR) but Vyborgsky district of Leningrad (named after the old road leading to Vyborg). Accordingly, "Vyborg" committees etc. ought to be translated as "Vyborgsky". Also, Lenoe is advised to correct his note to Figure 8: he apparently confused the names of Uritsky Palace (formerly and now Tauride Palace) and Uritsky Square (formerly and now Palace Square); they are located very far from each other. I decided to mention these unimportant points exactly to underscore my admiration of this magnificent research, since everything else is absolutely impeccable.