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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another corker from William Ryan
Korolev is in desperate trouble, his son is missing, his ex-wife is being `investigated' and one of the leading Soviet scientists has a bullet in his skull.

Korolev, the hard-working and secret Orthodox Christian, finds himself enmeshed in an investigation which has two separate KGB departments trying to out-manoeuvre each other. Korolev who tries to avoid...
Published 22 months ago by Amazon Customer

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars A quick predictable read with some minor historical interest
Run of the mill apart from the historical setting
Published 4 months ago by Prof Michael J. Rennie


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another corker from William Ryan, 11 May 2013
By 
Amazon Customer "Fiona" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
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Korolev is in desperate trouble, his son is missing, his ex-wife is being `investigated' and one of the leading Soviet scientists has a bullet in his skull.

Korolev, the hard-working and secret Orthodox Christian, finds himself enmeshed in an investigation which has two separate KGB departments trying to out-manoeuvre each other. Korolev who tries to avoid politics whenever possible is caught in the middle...so if his only child.

I have been a huge fan of the Soviet Militia man since his first literary outing. William Ryan, the author, goes from strength to strength. One can feel the oppressive atmosphere of pre-war Soviet Russia, where people disappear and apartments have sealed tape over the door. Korolev has to make his Christian genuflections in a pocket rather than openly.

Added to the political plotting are the truly hideous experiments being undertaken by Soviet scientists, all in the name of progress? What is about totalitarian societies which abandon medical ethics so rapidly?

This book was read in two nights, I could not put it down. The central character stands out as a man who is more concerned with justice and his family than by protecting his person from the dark forces that push forward Soviet progress. The same cannot be said for others in Korolev's Militia department.

What struck me the most is the acceptance that the state could make people disappear, arrest and charge them with due process of law, that everyone is an informer and the only place to speak the truth is in your own head. Family, friends and colleagues cannot be trusted. Informing brings tangible rewards to those who name names. Ironically the most honest character was the criminal king of the Moscow underworld.

Ryan is a superlative writer whose descriptive narrative keeps the reader enthralled. I look forward to reading more of Korlev's adventures. A welcome addition to the pantheon of `Soviet-lit'. Ryan is up there with Martin Cruz Smith and Sam Eastland.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Peek Behind the Iron Curtain, 5 May 2013
By 
Amazon Customer "Boo62" (Ilkeston Derbyshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
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William Ryan returns with the third in his series of Detective Korolev stories.
Based in the heavily oppressive world of 1930'2 Russia Ryan soon re-introduces his audience to the suffocating atmosphere that Stalin's regime imposed on it's subjects.
Korolev must step & speak carefully as he investigates the shooting of a hated professor and soon after the brutal stabbing of the professors rival at work.

The question is though what was that work? Torture & mind control seem to be the research both victims were involved in but Korolev is being watched very closely by a vengeful Orwellian government and must juggle two rival officials both grasping promotion and glory while both using the hapless detective as their means of moving up the ladder.

As he struggles to keep everyone happy, evidence is hidden, doors closed & threats are constantly made. All of which make his job almost impossible but the final straw is the disappearance of his son. Has he run away with a gang of street boys, are they involved somehow or has he been taken as a bargaining chip by the state?

The atmosphere becomes almost unbearable as the story progresses and the unfolding truths are grim and sad.

Ryan writes of a believable and eye opening Russia that saw millions 'disappear' and those left descend into constant fear and petty treachery.
Korolev remains a likeable and human face amongst the crowd and his companions and neighbours look to him to shed some light amongst the inhuman darkness.

This is not without it's flaws though. The pace is slow to the point of almost stopping. There are long passages where little happens and we are left waiting for the story to wake up and lumber on once more.
The other problem is that this is incredibly reliant upon talk. Great long passages of endless chatter that does not always lead us anywhere.

At times I found this quite a struggle to plough through and if it had not been for having read the first Korolev mystery I'm not sure just how long I would have persevered for.

Ultimately I'm glad I did, it add's nicely to the series and was eventually worthwhile but I would say that if you're new to the series then it's best to start at the beginning with The Holy Thief (Korolev Series).

This is not an easy read and requires a bit of determination to stick with but Ryan continues to add a fresh twist to the world of detective fiction. His chosen setting is a world pretty much closed off to the rest of us and it continues to fascinate and horrify in equal measure as he slowly unfolds it before us.
Korolev is a complex & likeable character and the stories twist and turn slowly until the unexpected truth is finally revealed.

Not the best of the three so far but well worth reading for fans of the series.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sinister Soviet thriller, 14 May 2013
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
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I enjoyed the first two instalments of William Ryan's series about Moscow Militia detective Alexei Korolev (the first more so than the second), so I was keen to get my hands on the third. After moving away from Moscow for the second book The Bloody Meadow (one of the reasons I wasn't so keen on it), Korolev is back at the heart of the Soviet capital for his next case.

At the beginning of the book Korolev is looking forward to a long holiday from work and spending time with his son Yuri, who usually lives with Korolev's ex-wife Zhenya. However, things don't go to plan and Korolev is soon called back to investigate the death of a scientist who worked at a mysterious institute where a sinister method of mind-control and brain-washing of counter-revolutionaries is being developed. One murder quickly leads to another and soon Korolev is embroiled in a web of corruption and intrigue which puts both his and his son's lives in danger.

What I enjoyed most about the first book in the series, The Holy Thief, was the brooding atmosphere and sense of menace which helped to convey the sense of terror under which ordinary Russian citizens were living, terrified of giving themselves away as doubters or, worse still, Christians (something which Korolev struggles to keep hidden about himself). I didn't get that so much with this instalment; the focus is more on political corruption, sinister Stalinist methods of torture and interrogation and (even more) secret government departments - still fascinating stuff though and a nice break from all the Scandi-crime I've been reading lately.

Whilst this book can be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, you will get the most out of it by reading books 1 and 2 first. The characters are starting to feel like old friends now and the relationships between them are developing nicely. I'm looking forward to the next one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars tension and paranoia in pre-war Russia, 25 May 2013
By 
Rob Kitchin - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
The Twelfth Department is the third instalment in Korolev series and sees the detective back in his native Moscow after his excursion to the Ukraine in his last outing. Ryan does an admirable job of recreating the tension and paranoia of pre-war Russia, and the ways in which ordinary people try to survive and get by in the system. Korolev is canny, street-wise and willing to take a risk, but he isn't corrupt nor anti-establishment, instead trying to be a good citizen and comrade in a regime that oppresses many. Given his job, he is tested often, and in The Twelfth Department Ryan provides a nice conumdrum to solve both in terms of the case and in surviving being a pawn in a game between NKVD departments. Indeed, this is a well-paced, plot-driven story, and whilst the characters are nicely penned, they are caught in the moment of the story and the reader learns little of their back story or wider situation and it would be interesting to learn a little more about Korolev and his colleagues in the next book. In compensation, there is a strong sense of place, good contextualisation, and vivid atmosphere. Overall, an enjoyable read and solid addition to what is shaping up to be a very good series.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 1930s Moscow Detective Caught Up in a Feud Between Branches of the NKVD, 20 May 2013
By 
John Gaynard "JJGaynard" (Paris, France) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
The Darkening Field is another occasion for Ryan to demonstrate that his knowledge of the 1930s Soviet Union is vast. Captain Alexei Korolov is a decent policeman, working with the Moscow militia CID. His life is in many ways bleak: separated from his wife and young son, he doesn't even have a pair of decent boots to wear. One advantage he has been able to obtain for himself, and about which he is slightly ashamed--when many rooms in Moscow house up to three families, is a bedroom of his own in an apartment chastely shared with a beautiful, friendly widow and her daughter.

Korolev is about to enjoy a few days holiday with his son, Yuri, who usually lives with his mother in Zagorsk, a town a good railway ride away from Moscow. Shortly after he collects his son at the Yaroslavsky Station, he is ordered to investigate the death of a scientist member of the Nomenklatura. He confides his son to the beautiful widow and her daughter, who like his son is a member of the Young Pioneer organization. Together they show Yuri the sights of Moscow. Korolev quickly finds out that the scientist who was murdered was a nasty piece of work, given to regularly denouncing his neighbors in the luxury building he inhabits, wholly given over to housing important State officials. The reward for his last denunciation was the right to move into the larger apartment vacated by the man he informed on.

The number of people with a valid motive to kill the scientist grows by the page.We learn that, in addition to being an informant, the scientist was not much of a researcher. His methods and findings, in addition to the way he runs his institute, are all being challenged by a younger colleague, who has been drafted in to audit his work. The younger colleague is killed soon after Korolev questions him.

Korolev is hopeful of solving the two murders quickly; at one point they look so run of the mill that he contemplates turning them over to a junior colleague. But when he tries to quit the case he is co-opted by the 5th department of the NKVD. For reasons he can't understand this turns him into an immediate target for thuggish intimidation from people openly following him around Moscow. He learns that the threats and the beatings are coming from the 12th Department of the NKVD. His child disappears and Korolev nearly forsakes his principles to come up with a false explanation of the murders to save Yuri's life. When he tries to call his wife, he learns that she too has gone missing. In the situation he's in he's going to be damned by one part of the NKVD if he does find the killer and damned by another part if he doesn't. Damned, in both cases, meaning losing his job, his room, his son, his wife, his life or all five of those things.

The interest in the story for me, as in Ryan's two previous novels about this period of Soviet history, was to see if Korolev could maintain his integrity in a duplicitous world, the evil depths of which he doesn't want to contemplate.

Korolev's thoughts mostly have to do with the protection of the people around him, not his own safety. Whenever he wavers or feels like giving in to the criminals working for the State it is because of his concern for the innocent people who may be caught up in the backlash against him. In the Korolev novels there is a threat hanging over every decent person in his entourage. That threat can range from being expelled from one's miserable lodging on a trumped-up charge to being hauled in for talking to a person who has suddenly been designated an enemy of the State.

In a couple of scenes reminiscent of the film at the center of the Darkening Field, Ryan's second novel, Korolev wonders whether the reason for his ex-wife Zhenia's disappearance may be because Yuri accused her of anti-Soviet sentiments to the Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union. The charismatic teacher who leads his son''s Young Pioneer section has taught Yuri that it is the duty of children to denounce their parents if they make the slightest criticism of the Soviet Union.

While battling with the cynical turpitudes of Stalinism, in which people in the bugged apartment blocks, not to mention novelists like Isaac Babel, disappear one after the other after an early morning knock on the door, Korolev is conscious that he too may become suspect to his son, and that Yuri will turn him in to his Young Pioneer leader. If I were a deconstructionist I would say that the absence of Babel in this novel, as opposed to Ryan's first two novels, in which he plays an important part, is very significant.

The scenes that provide the most poignant moments of the novel are those in which Korolev, a hero of the First World War and the revolution, needs not only to conceal his own Christianity but also to constantly provide reassurance to his son that he is a good Soviet citizen. Ryan shows the extent to which Stalinism could make an honest mother or father afraid of their own flesh and blood. The whole Soviet system was designed to replace love with evil and use it as a weapon against the people who dared to offer it.

This is a review of a copy of the book that was kindly sent to me by the Publisher.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended, 21 May 2013
By 
Johnnybluetime - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
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I read the first in the Korolev series and thought it was pretty good without being great and overall that's my opinion of this,the third in the series.Set in Stalinist Russia between the First and Second World Wars,it starts with a murder at a prestigous apartment block for highly valued citizens of the State that Korolev and his assistant Slivka are assigned to investigate.However,no sooner have they started than they are removed from the investigation and state security takes over.Korolev decides to take his son Yuri away for a week or two's holiday,but soon encounters more agents of state security and soon after a second murder back home in Moscow he is re-assigned to the investigation,but in the meantime his son disappears.

Ryan paints a believable picture of Stalinist Russia with plenty of detail and Korolev and Slivka are likable characters and I found this an enjoyable read with plenty of twists and turns.On the downside it won't take a genius to work out who did what and why,but to some extent the mystery is secondary to the portrait of a man struggling to remain honest in a corrupt system.And that's where my biggest reservation lies;despite the detail of life in Moscow in the '30's and plenty of villains Ryan never quite captures a sense of overwhelming menace.It also lacks the humour of Philp Kerr's Bernie Gunther books,which this series seems patently modelled on.Even so,I enjoyed it and would recommend it to fans of Kerr or Tom Robb Smith.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ryan goes from strength to strength., 17 Oct. 2014
By 
Bluecashmere. (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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I waited with impatience for this, the third in William Ryan’s Kolorov novels to appear in paperback. “The Holy Thief” and “The Bloody Meadow” combined to establish a major new talent in crime fiction. My earlier reviews of these two novels (q.v.), testify to what seems to me a distinctively fresh voice in this field. Kolorov is an engaging and original character in himself, but it is the world of Stalin’s Moscow, which gives the books their special quality. Here Ryan’s skill shines through via his powerfully authentic evocation of this sinister, pressurised society, in which it is difficult to be certain who are friends and who are enemies, a world in which suspicion and fear are part of the daily fabric of life.

Here, even more than earlier, the labyrinthine workings of the checkists, who monitor so closely every fine detail of those lives that inspire in them the slightest political interest, are at the very heart of things. The NKVD is a more sophisticated mirror of the society at large. It is a world of ever-shifting loyalties and betrayals, a world in which everyone casts half an eye over his shoulder, a world living on the adrenaline of power. This is the world into which Korolov is pitched in this story as he fights to maintain his integrity in the face of constant threats and pressures as warring factions treat him as simply the means to their devious ends.

It seems to me that this novel is Ryan’s finest yet. The different elements are fused into a compelling whole; the plot is intricate and beautifully worked out. The hold on the reader is unrelenting. Ryan has raised the cross bar. I look forward eagerly to where he will take us next, confident that he is too fine a writer to disappoint.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars most personal Korolev case so far, 26 Jun. 2013
This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
After a hot Odessa the action of the third book of the series about the captain of the Moscow police Korolev returns to Moscow. Detective Korolev takes a week off and plans to spend it with his son Yuri who suddenly decided to come visit his father (little Yuri lives with Korolev's ex-wife Zhenya) on the dacha of the writer Isaac Babel in the suburbs. Korolev is very glad to arrival of his son, but to spend a week with him is not meant to be. In a government building near the Kremlin scientist Azarov, after whom is named Research Institute, is killed, and Korolev is assaigned to investigate the crime, as a detective, who can be trusted with delicate matters. Captain has time to only see the part of the aspects of the case (and among them the most important is that Azarov was engaged in secret research of the human brain), as NKVD officers remove him from the case, letting him know he is to forget about investigation and forget about all that he found out.

But Azarov's Deputy, Shtange, is killed and another NKVD officer asks Koorlev to return to the investigation and even gives the confused detective a trusted paper, signed by Yezhov. But the security officers of the Twelfth Department, special department, don't leave Korolev alone, which leads to running away from the dacha of little Yuri. Korolev has to investigate the two muddy murders, where the secrets of the state are mixed, and the son of Korolev is being looked for by all the Moscow police, and worst of all, NKVD, which Korolev crossed the road.

Books by William Ryan are different from the usual historical mysteries placed in Soviet Russia by the fact that here a detective is investigating not the ordinary murders, but the ones where the State Security is mixed in. Ryan continues this trend in The Twelfth Department. This novel is perhaps the most personal Korolev's case. At stake there is not only the freedom and the life of the main character (as it was in the previous two books), but also the freedom of the family of the detective. Koorlev's ex-wife is being investigated by the State Security, and maybe she could face life in camp. Son of Korolev falls into the clutches of dangerous security officers who use Yuri as a means of control of his father. Korolev has to choose between professional honesty and the health of his son, but given the fact that Korolev has dangerous enemies in the face of the officers of the Twelfth Department, the detective would have been happy to face Kolyma, not death.

Ryan continues to draw a few lines from the previous books. Here again there is Kolya, Chief Authority of the Moscow Thieves, which almost becomes a friend to Korolev. Slivka, detective from Odessa from the previous book in the series, is now working in Moscow under Korolev. Ryan continues to pull a romantic line, bringing together Korolev and his neighbor in the kommunalka Valentina.

The plot of this novel is a classic whodunnit, where Korolev, following the textbook, interrogates witnesses, examines the crime scene, relies on forensic tests. After 200 pages the plot starts to sag a little, when Korolev discusses the same information with different characters, new turns are not on the way, you can start yawning. Ryan is not the strongest plotter: the amount of twists here are very modest, but there are multiple coincedences, which keeps the plot going. For example, what is the chance that in the security officers' trap will fall not only the son of Korolev, but the son of Thief Kolya, as well? And just the same, that the arrival of Yuri coincides with the investigation, where children, particularly orphans, are mixed in the case.

But Ryan is sensitive to the details: you sometimes do not even say that the novel is written by Irishman, who has not even lived in Russia, not by a Soviet immigrant or our contemporary living in Russia. However, there are errors and omissions. So, Ryan calls Korolev's little son Yuri, not Yura, and the author makes Stalin General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU, although in 1937, the party was called the name of the All-Soviet Communist Party (b). British dimensional system looks unnatural here: if you decided to write about the Soviet Union, be Soviet all around, using meters instead of feet.

Still, the best moments of the book are those where Korolev doesn't question anybody and chases nobody. The most interesting to read scenes are, as Korolev is sitting in the park and looking at the resting crowd, goes to the zoo with his son and the neighbor, sunbathes with his son on the river. Ryan's prose in these moments especially radiates humanity.

Perhaps William Ryan should try himself in the so-called mainstream fiction. The writer has all skills for that.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intriguing novel about a detective in Stalinist Moscow, 23 Jun. 2013
This review is from: The Twelfth Department: Korolev Mysteries Book 3 (The Korolev Series) (Hardcover)
I featured this book in my March "Look out for these!" post on The Crime Warp, a blog I write for. I've not read any of William Ryan's novels before and when I picked up the book, the thought of a detective investigating crime in 1930's Moscow was simply intriguing.

The protagonist Korolev, is winding down, happily anticipating a week's leave which he plans to spend with his young son, who he's not seen for several years. Korolev is suddenly recalled and finds himself in the Party elite's world, investigating the murder of a prominent scientist Azarov. Korolev delves into the murder and the Azarov Institute, but is soon pushed aside by the unpleasant secret Colonel Zaitsev and take off the case.

Just as Korolev starts to enjoy his holiday, he is recalled again when Azarov's deputy is brutally murdered, but Korolev's access to the Institute is barred and all the documentation mysteriously taken away, leaving Korolev few clues. And just to make things more awkward his son is kidnapped and held by Zaitsev, as a way of "influencing" Korolev's investigation, so he reports his investigation "correctly" to the equally sinister Colonel Rodinov. Korolev is truly walking a tightrope as he tries to rescue his son, find out more about the mysterious Twelfth Department and keeping the two secret police Colonels from turning on him.

Ryan brings out well the characteristics and atmosphere of Stalinist Moscow - the privileges enjoyed by the elite but also the fear that anyone, however high their status could find themselves denounced, arrested and put on a train for the Siberian gulag. There's a scene where Korolev meets an informant in the park and his own desperation is contrasted with the everyday lives of people as they stroll, eat ice cream or enjoy a ride on a Ferris wheel. Hearteningly, Korolev is a genuinely honest and decent person, inspiring loyalty not just from his sidekick Sergeant Slivka, but friends and neighbours who respect Korolev enough to look out for him, despite the risks to themselves.

I liked this book particularly, because Ryan has made it work both as an ordinary "whodunnit" and a novel that brings to life an interesting historical setting - so you can read and enjoy The Twelfth Department for either or both of these reasons.

Romancrimeblogger
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better with every book, 7 Jun. 2013
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Koralev is an endearing character; balancing sullenness, good humour, a hard attitude when he needs it with a softness that ultimately keeps him and his family safe perfectly. William Ryan is growing him with every book and the plot is full of twists and turns permeated by the lead mans relentless quest for truth. These things combined, alongside an ever changing, fast paced Moscow which is beautifully described make for a really enjoyable read...can't wait for the next installment
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