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The Twelfth Department by William Ryan

Posted By Claire on August 29, 2013

The Twelfth DepartmentThank you to Penelope Wright for reviewing this one for us…

Another era I know very little about! Probably just as well under the circumstances, Stalin seems to have created a nation of frightened people. Always looking over their shoulders to see who was the next in line to be plucked from “comfort”, I use the term very loosely, and spirited away to who knew where. Living with mistrust of friends and colleagues must have been a nightmare for not just the ordinary man or woman on the street but even those supposed to be in power. I think as time went on, the outside world probably suspected a lot but proof, well… You will have to read the book to perhaps understand what I mean.

The research that goes into writing a historical novel must be enormous and this one is no exception. The mistrust I mentioned before is cleverly woven into the murder plot and Ryan’s descriptions of the living conditions at the time show very clearly the idea of everybody being equal but that some were more equal than others.

I started the book by reading the list of characters and wished I hadn’t. All the Russian names were most confusing for me but once I got into the plot I was hooked. The intricate murder mystery was intriguing, kept me turning the pages and changing my mind about who the murderer was. I never did pick the right one.

I really enjoyed reading this book but throughout I thanked my lucky stars I was not born or lived through Stalinist Russia. Well done William Ryan.

Blurb from Amazon

Captain Alexei Korolev has nothing to complain about. He has his own room in an apartment, a job in the police force that puts food on the table, and his good health. In Moscow in 1937, that’s a lot more than most people have to be grateful for. But for the first time in a long time, Korolev is about to be truly happy: his son Yuri is coming to visit for an entire week.

Shortly after Yuri’s arrival, however, Korolev receives an urgent call from his boss—it seems an important man has been murdered, and Korolev is the only detective they’re willing to assign to this sensitive case. In fact, Korolev realizes almost immediately that the layers of sensitivity and secrecy surrounding this case far exceed his paygrade. And the consequences of interfering with a case tied to State Security or the NKVD can be severe—you might lose your job, if you’re lucky. Your whole family might die if you’re not. Korolev is suddenly faced with much more than just discovering a murderer’s identity; he must decide how far he’ll go to see justice served . . . and what he’s willing to do to protect his family.

In The Twelfth Department, William Ryan’s portrait of a Russian policeman struggling to survive in one of the most volatile and dangerous eras of modern history is mesmerizing.

Book Details

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Minotaur Books (July 9, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312586523
ISBN-13: 978-0312586522
Available as an ebook, hardcover and audiobook from Amazon.com and Amazon UK or your usual bookstore.

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