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Death of a Dissident (Porfiry Rostnikov #1)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  560 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov has a lot on his plate. His superiors in the Moscow police force are suspicious of his Jewish wife, the black-market copies of his beloved Ed McBain ?87th Precinct? novels are getting tough to find, and his dreams of becoming a competitive weight-lifter are receding at a rapid clip. And then there's the famous dissident who's been murdered right ...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published October 1st 2005 by Felony & Mayhem (first published 1981)
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Evenly paced mystery/police procedural set in Russia. The first in a series featuring Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov who walks a fine line between the various factions in power.

I liked Porfify, he is a dour no nonsense type of character but he also knows how to play the game, and when tread softly. Also enjoyed the secondary characters on offer here as well.

Informative regarding the situation both politically and culturally in Russia for the time. Unfortunately I'd read the wonderful Arkady Renko
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I've read most of Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series (Gorky Park, Polar Star, etc.) and I hope Kaminsky's books give as good a picture of the hopeless situation Soviet-era police found themselves in. I've read a couple of Kaminsky's Toby Peters books (Murder on the Yellow Brick Road and, I think, He Done Her Wrong) and enjoyed them.

*After reading*
This was a pretty good book, and did a good job of showing what the Soviet Union was like toward its last days - the tendency of many to just give
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This is the second time I have read this book. (Yes, this series is that good). Unfortunately, Stuart Kaminsky passed away and I love the cast of characters in his Rostinkov series. So, I decided I would re-read the series. Hey, when the characters are this good, it's like catching up with old friends!
Apr 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
My formative educational years were during the Cold War. School were replete with doctrinaire rants about the evils of the Soviet Union, television and Hollywood added to the hype and I can distinctly remember seeing black and white TV sets in store windows broadcasting the McCarthy hearings. Looking back, it's apparent that "brainwashing" occurred on both sides of the world (and a lot in-between) The austerity of Stuart Kaminsky's Moscow is prevalent from the beginning of the novel to its very ...more
Dec 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
I was disappointed in this book. I studied Russian language and literature in college, and I love reading books that take place in Russia. I had a few problems with this book - first, it felt like the author was trying too hard to make the book seem "Russian" by trying to adopt typical Russian style. This served to make it obvious that the book was written by someone who didn't grow up in Russia. However, the biggest problem I had with the book was that I felt little to no suspense throughout th ...more
Richard Thompson
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-alouds, mystery
The first book in Kaminky's series about Russian detective Inspector Rostnikov. A dissident awaiting trial in Moscow is murdered with a rusty scythe. The powers that be are convinced when a neighbor who has been seen quarreling with the victim flees from the police and is apprehended by Rostinkov in the metro. Rostnikov is not as convinced.

The long Russian names were a challenge — especially for the reader, but also for the listeners. Politics is always lurking in the background in Russian crime
Geraldine Satz
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had read Kaminsky a long time ago. I enjoyed his writing then and more so now. His characters are so true to life they seem to leap off the pages. The way life in Russia is described is so interesting.
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Good but not great.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Start of a long Russian cop story. Good beginning, nothing much new, but it was published in 1981. It holds up well, giving a good picture of Soviet police activities.
Jul 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
The Inspector Rostnikov novels start in the waning years of the Soviet Union with “Death of a Dissident” and follow the main characters through the transition to a post-communist society. Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov (who shares his first and middle names with the police inspector in “Crime and Punishment”) leads a group of police detectives slogging through murders, robberies, arsons and the like, while dodging the political ambitions of the higher-ups and working within a broken system as best ...more
Marty Fried
May 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, although I think I would have liked it better if it was not an audiobook. I found it a little hard to follow some of the characters due to the unusual names, and I think I may have missed a little of what happened because of this, and also due to not paying attention part of the time as I listened while doing other things. But I think the KGB was involved behind the scenes in ways nobody suspected, including me. There was a lot of politics and resulting intrigue that was pro ...more
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was ok
Books later in the series got higher ratings, but I'm a stickler for starting a series at the beginning whenever possible. This was ok, but pretty underwhelming. I think it's funny that in the introduction to the edition I read the author mentions that Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith came out at the same time as this and heavily implies it overshadowed his own work. He writes that it was clear Gorky Park was a very different book. I guffawed aloud thinking, "Right! A really good one!" Still with ...more
Otto Penzler
Sep 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Death of a Dissident is the first book in Stuart Kaminsky’s Edgar Award-winning series about Moscow police detective Inspector Rostnikov series. Praised for its accurate depiction of Soviet life, Kaminsky’s novels describing the climate of Soviet Russia, with the ever-lurking threat of the KGB, are all the more chilling for their accuracy. Beyond its historical appeal, Death of a Dissident is a taut thriller featuring Rostnikov’s attempt to track down a killer while dealing with a very corrupt p ...more
Peter Barr
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first in a series of books involving several Moscow inspectors of major crimes. The main character is Porfiry Rostnikov, an amateur weightlifter who was crippled in WWII and walks with a limp. This story begins with the death of a dissident (hence the name) shortly before his trial for antigovernment activities. It is still the Soviet Union and the politics of the time come into play in the book as they do throughout the series. The story picks up as it go along and is a wonderful in ...more
Michael Jak
Jul 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fascinating character studies and setting for a murder mystery. I really liked Rostnikov, the main character. Nothing like an affection for the main character to pull you into a story. The descriptions of Soviet Russian era Moscow were vividly colorless-if that is possible. If it was Cold War brainwashing that painted this picture of the USSR in my juvenile mind and the book simply seemed to verify it or a fairly accurate firsthand knowledge by Kaminsky, I don't know. At any rate, it was very co ...more
Sep 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-1, mystery
I was not sure what to expect. I had heard a lot of good things about this series. I was worried it would be dated, overrated, and a bit boring. However, this novel was really good. I am glad I chose to read it and wish I could continue on in the series - if only I had book 2!! The depictions of Soviet Russia are not overdone or tedious. I recommend for fans of Russia, mysteries, and detectives.
Clearwater Public Library Staff Picks
The main character of this series, Inspector Rostnikov, is the most adorable Russian detective ever. You will end up loving him and his family, because Stuart Kaminsky makes them so real and accessible. My only regret is that Mr. Kaminsky has passed away and will not be writing this amazing and wonderful series any longer. It's a great view into life in Communist Russia and what that means for it's people and it's criminals!
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've read this series several times (I was frankly rather annoyed at Kaminsky for dying before he tied up all the loose ends after 14 or 15 books....). I loved watching how the backdrop of these stories changed as the USSR evolved and then fell apart, and how the characters coped, or didn't cope, with their changing reality. Plus, just good fun.
Jason Reeser
Dec 12, 2013 rated it liked it
It took me a little while to get into this but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. I like the style and the characters; the plot was okay. I will be reading more in the series. It has great potential.
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this murder mystery a lot less for the mystery than for the description of the Muscovite mind - the casual socialist, the communist saint, the dissident, social pragmatists, all very interesting, though I don't know how accurate.
Vikas Datta
Nov 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brooding, atmospheric mystery... well, it begins as a mystery before the services work their way in and work their machinations... Captures Soviet life very well and has a few very singular characters..
M Rothenbuhler
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really like the Kaminsky books that feature detective Porfiry Rostnikov. This book is no exception to the rule. Plenty of side trips, a satisfying mystery/crime blend. . . I just felt the ending was a little weak in this one.
Since I'm presently engrossed with Russian history I thought that some mysteries that had a "Russian" them might be fun. I'm already looking forward to my second book in the series. The inspector is an appealing character.
Feb 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
While touring in Patagonia, Dan from Fairbanks passed on this murder mystery set in 1970's Moscow. A quick entertaining read, mostly of historical interest to me for its Party politics vs. police work objectives.
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've not read any of this series in at least 10 years. This being #1 in the Rostnikov series I guess it's been at least 20 years. Long enough that it was like reading it for the first time, except knowing the main characters. Great book and great series!
Jerry Werzinsky
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good book, a little on the slow side, but so was the Soviet Union. Good characters, I read another Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov book so I was already familiar with the characters.
Dec 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Although overlong and plodding at times, the underlying story of spying and assassination is fascinating.
Chris Nordensson
Jul 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Possesses actual literary elements. Rostnikov is one of my favorite series characters.
Sep 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended. Not so much for the mystery (it's not a whodunnit anyway) or for the plot, but for the characters and the milieu, which is dreary but fascinating.
Jennifer Bucholtz
Jun 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was really excited to read this book but felt a bit let down. It just did not grab my attention as I expected.
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Received the Shamus Award, "The Eye" (Lifetime achievment award) in 2007.

Stuart M. Kaminsky is author of 50 published novels, 5 biographies, 4 textbooks and 35 short stories. He also has screenwriting credits on four produced films including ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, ENEMY TERRITORY, A WOMAN IN THE WIND and HIDDEN FEARS. He is a past president of the Mystery Writers of America and has been nomi
More about Stuart M. Kaminsky...

Other Books in the Series

Porfiry Rostnikov (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • Black Knight in Red Square (Porfiry Rostnikov, #2)
  • Red Chameleon (Porfiry Rostnikov, #3)
  • A Fine Red Rain (Porfiry Rostnikov, #4)
  • A Cold Red Sunrise (Porfiry Rostnikov, #5)
  • The Man Who Walked Like a Bear (Porfiry Rostnikov, #6)
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“The worst thing,' she whispered to the cat as she stroked it, 'is not to be useful.” 3 likes
“At the end of the top of the desk, the sickle caught the phone and the tip of the blade broke off. There are days, thought Rostnikov, where fate denies a man even the most meaningless of dramatic gestures. The” 0 likes
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