Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
Then there is the KGB colonel who seems a bit too interested in the course of Matushkin's investigation... and Pavel's womanizing office mate, who gets involved with a subject of the case... and a series of petty burglaries that defy resolution... and of course Pavel's complicated love interest, who is as prickly as she is perceptive...
For readers who love the novels of William Ryan, Tom Rob Smith and Martin Cruz Smith, now there is Alexei Bayer – a Russian-born, American educated writer of Russian-based detective novels.
Bayer’s gripping novel oozes with a native’s familiarity with Russian reality, yet his literate, richly descriptive style is that of a native English writer. In Murder at the Dacha, Bayer masterfully recreates the Soviet Union of his youth, to offer a vivid, gripping tale of deception, greed, murder, and a simple detective just trying to do his job.
Came to the US in 1975. Worked at a print shop on Long Island, graduated from Columbia College in 1980 with a degree in Italian literature. Studied in Bologna, Italy and got an MA in International Economics from The Johns Hopkins SAIS program. Worked for Educational Testing Service, for A. Gary Shilling, a Wall Street consultancy, Standard & Poor's, The Economist Publications. Started my own economic consulting firm, KAFAN FX Information Services. Started writing fiction in 1990. Published short stories and poems in Kenyon Review, New England Review, Salamander, River City and other publications. A collection of short stories, Europtrash, came out in Moscow in 2004 in a Russian translation by writer Andrei Gelasimov. Translated from Russian both contemporary works of prose and poetry and Russian 18th and 19th century classical writers, including Maya Kucherskaya's New Paterikon, published in English as Faith and Humor from Muscovy. First murder mystery, Murder at the Dacha, published in 2013, followed by a prequel, Latchkey Murders (2015) and a sequel, Murder and the Muse (2016). Just finished Children of the Ark, a sci-fi novel set in 2276; finishing a novel set in a New York suburb and the fourth Russian mystery, to feature gangs of disabled WWII veterans.
I loved this book and stayed up half the night to find out whodunit and why (and then had to read that part again to make sure I understood all the intricacies of the plot). Clearly, Alexei Bayer is a lot of smarter than I am (and a lot more devious).
I'd love to read another Pavel Matyushkin mystery; he's a smart, likable character trying to do his job in the midst of corruption, not unlike Donna Leon's Brunetti.
I loved this book. There's a gentleness to the writing, a decency behind so many characters -- rather the kind of people one would meet in Russia. They're not particularly bloodthirsty, though a few are beyond callous; along the way you will find interesting characters, a story that is as tightly wound as any detective novel you're likely to read in the next few years, and a new favorite author.
Applying five stars to a book is not, for me, based purely on literary merit. It is purely based on enjoyment. I would argue that Hilary Mantel is a finer literary writer than Alexei Bayer, but her two Wolf Hall books get five stars for enjoyment. While they happen to be highly literary as well, enjoyment also comes from plotting, authenticity, and also the context of the read. In my case, pure diversion!
This book is a really fine read. It avoids cliche, has mountains of human warmth, the plot progresses with plausible originality, and the whole experience is one of the best I've enjoyed in a year.
Think the iconic Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith, and written by someone who clearly has a great insight into Soviet-era life in Moscow in the mid 1960s.
Hope he is writing more - this book was a real treat.
Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is on a train, returning from the countryside with his girlfriend and her son, when he is called upon to intervene because a man is harassing a woman. He expects the result to be time consuming, but because he arrests this man, he is pulled into first an investigation into a string of burglaries and then into a murder investigation which could destroy his life.
A high-up Soviet official is found dead, and the authorities want the investigation wrapped up as quickly as possible. Pavel suspects that a lot more is going on with the murder than the people in power want to see, and he risks everything to keep puzzling it out.
This was a great book with a multilayered mystery, interesting characters with complicated relationships, and a vivid atmosphere.