Cerisaye's Reviews > The Red Coffin

The Red Coffin by Sam Eastland
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really liked it
bookshelves: crime-historical, russia

An enjoyable series set in the USSR in the 1930s told with flashbacks to the pre-revolutionary era when Inspector Pekkala was the Tsar's most trusted police investigator, wearing a special lapel pin to identify him called the Emerald Eye. Now he works for Stalin, depicted as something like a grumpily exacting uncle figure, which is disconcerting when you consider what the dictator was doing at this time, the Great Terror and starvation in the Ukraine as state policy.

Pekkala must investigate the grisly murder of the head designer of the vital Soviet tank programme. He's given a 'shadow pass' from Stalin, in effect freedom to go anywhere, interrogate anyone and do anything necessary to solve the case, no questions asked or permission necessary. Interference from secret police, suspicion and treachery among rival scientists, the fear induced by Stalin's paranoia make Pekkala's job difficult and dangerous. Dogged pursuit of truth and justice with stoical persistence is what he's about, however, and the stakes could not be higher: is someone working to take the T34 tank to the Germans, a formidable weapon to be turned against the Soviet Union in an apparently imminent invasion?

I like Pekkala and his almost fatherly relationship with young assistant, Major Kirov. There's enough grim detail of life under Stalin and pertinent reminiscences to Tsarist times to make a decent historical novel and the crime plot satisfies, too, though don't expect an all-action thriller as the novel has quite a slow pace. Digressions in the form of flashbacks to Pekkala's dealings with the Tsar and Tsarina, and Rasputin, might appear superfluous to some readers but are a useful way to compare and contrast differences and similarities between absolutist monarchy and Soviet totalitarianism.

These are fun, escapist reads that will appeal to those like me who grew up on John Buchan's Richard Hannay
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Reading Progress

October 23, 2017 – Shelved
October 24, 2017 – Started Reading
October 26, 2017 – Shelved as: crime-historical
October 26, 2017 – Shelved as: russia
October 26, 2017 – Finished Reading

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