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Ryan goes from strength to strength.
on 17 October 2014
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.