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on 17 March 2012
Once again we are immersed in the claustrophobic and paranoid atmosphere of Stalinist Russia, in this the follow up to Ryan's remarkable debut `The Holy Thief'. Our erstwhile hero and investigator Captain Korolev becomes embroiled in the suspected suicide of a beautiful young woman working as a film production assistant, and is uprooted from the relative safety of Moscow to the wilds to investigate. A seemingly straightforward case one would think, but as Korolev gets drawn in deeper to her complicated private life and her links to an especially violent period of Russian history, dark secrets are unearthed and Korolev must revisit an unpredictable and dangerous ally from the past to thwart a perilous plot at personal risk to his life and career.
Ryan's attention to historical detail is masterful and because the novel is so rooted in the reality of this period, one truly gets the sense of the fear of speaking one's own mind and the inherent suspicion of others that was fuelled by the suffocating and paranoid dictatorship of Stalin. This attention to historical detail and sense of place is counterbalanced by the precision of the plotting and a cast of truly well-drawn characters and the storyline is also underscored by moments of mordant humour that catch the reader unawares. I really liked the introduction of Slivka, a young female investigator who becomes invaluable to Korolev's investigation and the reappearance of Kolya- the leader of The Thieves- was a welcome surprise as despite his criminal tendencies, he makes a wonderful foil to Korolev's role as law enforcer. I would heartily recommend this book as a terrific criminal read but also as an astute and well-observed depiction of a terrifying period of Russian history. More than just a crime novel...
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on 30 October 2011
This is the second book featuring the protagonist and I bought it the moment I had finished the first book "The Holy Thief", having become intrigued by the central character Korolev. The author brilliantly conveys the confusing and threatening atmosphere of the pre-war Soviet Union and the various strategies individuals use in order to survive. The protagonist, a militia man trying to solve a murder and keep out of the way of the Chekists (early KGB), is no two dimensional hero but a man doing his best to survive and maintain his integrity. An excellent thriller set in a intriguing time and well written. I can only hope that there will be more to come.
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on 3 January 2012
This is a great book. Full of suspense and intrigue. It is not only a great story but also gives you a real insight into life in soviet Russia under Stalin. This is a step on from his first book the holy thief which is also a great read. I highly recommend it. Ken
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VINE VOICEon 26 July 2012
This is the second book featuring our detective from Moscow, Captain Alexei Korolev - who is a decent man living in a society immersed in paranoia and brutality, keeping his head down and doing his job to the best of his ability. He claims he is not a political man but believes in criminal justice and he quietly prays to himself too which could see him sent him off to a Gulag if he was caught. I loved the first book, The Holy Thief, and found this book to be a great sequel. This one takes him down to Odessa in the Ukraine in the pre-war years of the Great Terror in which the Ukraine suffered appalling hardships in order to bring it into line with the Soviet structure. Feelings still ran high against their tormenters and there was a hotbed of counter-revolutionary activity that would topple the hardline regime if possible. Korolev does his best to the bring the criminals to justice and order to the proceedings. A very good read and I look forward to reading of Korolev's next assignment.
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on 28 April 2016
I devoured two of William Ryan's books in quick succession, the first being The Holy Thief, and the second The Bloody Meadow, and all I can say is thank goodness there's another I can get stuck into soon! Absorbing, powerful, thought provoking, Ryan shows Stalinist Russia through the eyes of an empathetic and vulnerable Russian detective, Captain Korolev. The fear of the official organs is always present, giving a constant tension throughout the story. The sense of location is fantastic and the characters beautifully drawn. I especially liked the feisty Slivka and hope she returns in the next book. A great series.
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on 5 March 2012
After having survived the dangerous investigation in The Holy Thief, Captain Alexei Korolev is relieved to be investigating straight forward crimes again. He knows that if those in power ever find out the exact nature of his activities during the politically very sensitive earlier investigation, he will be deported at best. At the moment he finds himself decorated and hailed as a perfect Soviet citizen, but he knows that this perception can change at any moment and anybody's whim.
When he hears a knock on his door in the middle of the night he is therefore prepared for the worst. It turns out though that he is not facing deportation but is needed for another very sensitive and politically dangerous investigation.
Maria Alexandovna Lenskaya, a young production assistant on a film set in the Ukraine, has been found dead in what may turn out to be a case of suicide. Since she was very close to a very important party member the exact cause of and reason for her death has to be determined in a very discreet investigation and with Korolev's earlier success in mind the security service has decided that he is the man to execute this investigation.
Almost as soon as Korolev arrives on the scene he determines that the young woman's death was unfortunately not a case of suicide and reluctantly and with fear in his heart he starts his murder investigation. It isn't long before he finds himself facing multiple suspects, people with questionable pasts and lots of opposition.
Partnered with a young local police sergeant, Korolev has to dig his way through lies, secret identities and intrigue before he gets to the answers, always aware that solving the crime might just mean the end for him.

These are very good mysteries as well as historical novels.
William Ryan strikes just the right balance between a police procedural and the historical reality of oppression and political manipulations. The investigation and resolution of the crimes would have made this book a page-turner in and off themselves. It's the added undercurrent of political menace resulting in a situation where nobody can be sure that their actions and words won't be interpreted the wrong way, that raises this book to the level of full-blown thriller.
In Korolev the author has created a believable and likeable yet very human main character. The way in which he is constantly trying to balance the successful conclusion to his current investigation with the need to be discreet if he wants to stay alive and not put others connected to him into danger as well as the frustration this leads to at times, are very convincing.
I like the way in which certain other characters appear to be regulars in these stories. The uneasy relationship and collaboration between Korolev and Count Kolya, the leader of the Moscow Thieves, is inspired and I am delighted that it seems as if Slivka, the young police sergeant, will be returning in future books.
I hope this will be a long running series and that Mr. Ryan won't keep me waiting too long before I can read the next Korolev mystery.
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The second of William Ryan's Stalinist Russia crime novels more than lives up to the promise of the first. It is in the same vein and features not only the likable Alexei Kolorov but also NKVD characters and underworld figures from the earlier book. New is the introduction of a sturdily original female assistant, who looks set to return in the next story. While not wishing to do less than justice to "The Holy Thief", this novel seems to me to offer a better plot, both in terms of incidents and pacing. Ryan also shows the ability to handle prolonged tense action scenes, and although there is no shortage of violence there is not the emphasis on sadism that seemed somewhat gratuitous before. Kolorov looks well set to join Wallender, Hole and company as one of the leading detectives in contemporary crime fiction.
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on 12 November 2011
very good political-historical thriller....Recommended!!The atmosphera of suspicion at the USSU in the years of the Grear Purge, are ever present. Excellent!!!
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on 7 May 2012
I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan debut novel, The Holy Thief, so I had high expectations for The Bloody Meadow. It's a good read, but doesn't quite match the quality of the first book in the series. The Holy Thief had a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere, with a very tight plot. The Bloody Meadow is more expansive, felt a little looser in the plotting, and Korolov as a character is little developed in terms of backstory and personal life. And because there is a lot going on and there is a big cast, the development of characters in general is a little bit too much surface and not enough depth. There are also some unlikely coincidences, which enable a couple of characters from the first book to appear in the second. That all said, the book does have historical richness and The Bloody Meadow is an enjoyable read, and if I hadn't read the first book I'm sure this review would read more positively than it might seem. To be clear then, I am still recommending it as worthy of a look and my sense is that this is a series with a lot of potential. Personally, I hope the third book is set back in Moscow, allowing a further engagement with the militia and pathology characters from the first book. Regardless of setting, I plan to read it.
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on 14 October 2016
This character has become so compelling - the 'ordinary man' s efforts to survive and to solve the problems of living in an inhuman regime is encapsulated in this tough-shelled soft-hearted man. William Ryan has created a character who immediately earns our compassion and empathy. The attention to time and place in all his novels is spot-on. You are there and you believe it.
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