Title: The White Russian Signed By Author
Publisher: Bantam Press
Publication Date: 2003
Book Condition: Very Good
Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: First Edition.
9.29 X 6.22 X 1.57 inches; 389 pages; Signed by Author. Bookseller Inventory # 91502
Synopsis: St Petersburg 1917. The capital of the glittering Empire of the Tsars and a city on the brink of revolution where the jackals of the Secret Police intrigue for their own survival as their aristocratic masters indulge in one last, desperate round of hedonism. For Sandro Ruzsky, Chief investigator of the city police, even this decaying world provides the opportunity for a new beginning. Banished to Siberia for four years for pursuing a case his superiors would rather he'd quietly buried, Ruzsky finds himself investigating the murders of a young couple out on the ice of the frozen river Neva. The dead girl was a nanny at the Imperial Palace, the man an American from Chicago and, if the brutality of their deaths seems an allegory for the times, Ruzsky finds that, at every turn, the investigation leads dangerously close to home. At the heart of the case, lies Maria, the beautiful ballerina Ruzsky once loved and lost. But is she a willing participant in what appears to be a dangerous conspiracy or likely to be it's next, perhaps last, victim? In a city at war with itself, and pitted against a ruthless murderer who relishes taunting him, Ruzsky finds himself at last face to face with his own past as he fights to save everything he cares for, before the world into which he was born goes up in flames.
Review: With Russia on the brink of revolution, the least important thing to most residents of St Petersburg in January 1917 might have been who stabbed to death an unidentified couple on the frozen Neva River. Yet in Tom Bradby's doleful yet evocative The White Russian solving that mystery is pretty much all that keeps Alexander "Sandro" Ruzsky, chief investigator of the city police, from despairing over his medley of personal torments.
It turns out that the dead woman on the ice used to work as a nanny to Tsar Nicholas II's children until she was dismissed for stealing unspecified property. Her male companion, a Chicago criminal and labour agitator, was knifed 17 times and had in his coat pocket a roll of banknotes marked with tiny ink dots. A code of some sort? If so, who was he communicating with secretly, and to what end? Although Ruzsky, the black sheep son of an aristocratic family, just back from a three-year Siberian banishment, finds his investigation hampered by the tsar's secret police, he slowly unpeels the layers of a conspiracy that involves not merely homicide, but also avarice, politics and long-sought vengeance. The stability of Russia's monarchy may depend on Ruzsky's success in this case, as may the investigator's hesitant relationship with a star ballerina, whose cloaked past makes her a far more intriguing and more deadly companion than Ruzsky realises.
While The White Russian introduces readers to St Petersburg's exotic and economic extremes--tenements of Dostoevskian squalidness, gilded ballet theatres full of garrulous royalty--it is a rather less ambitiously atmospheric story than Bradby's previous novel, 2002's The Master of Rain. Yet it boasts a similarly tumbling pace, emotionally torn and credible characters (including a "neurotic and hysterical" Tsarina Alexandra) and twists and dubious allegiances enough to leave readers wondering at Ruzsky's solution until the closing pages. At once a chilling crime yarn and a cautionary tale about the sometimes painful exigencies of love, The White Russian is a literary cocktail with a decided kick. --J. Kingston Pierce, Amazon.com
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