With Russia on the brink of a populist 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 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, in Tom Bradby's doleful yet evocative novel, The White Russian
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 labor 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 returned 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 realizes.
While The White Russian introduces readers to St. Petersburg's exotic and economic extremes--tenements of Dostoevskian squalidness, gilded ballet theaters 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
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Praise for The Master of Rain
“Exotic Shanghai of 1926…has been enterprisingly summoned by Mr. Bradby. In this ambitious, atmospheric crime novel…a city on the brink is recreated with impressive diligence. The physical details are strong and the politics appropriately ominous. Chinatown
–New York Times
“Tom Bradby’s expert evocation of the hothouse atmosphere of Twenties Shanghai makes an exotic backdrop to a crackling murder mystery. This is an immensely atmostpheric, gripping detective story with just the right mixture of exoticism, violence, and romance.”
“Tense and rather lush, expertly working the wonderful setting without overplaying the cultural clash: eerily well suited to these parlous times.”
"Rich, dark, atmospheric, this fine novel captures time and place perfectly... It's a great crime story that ends up in a place you won't predict ... and a great love story that you desperately hope will
end up in the place you predict."
–Lee Child, bestselling author of Without Fail
“As we turn the pages and stray deeper into Tom Bradby's decadent, strangely perfumed world, we grow aware that something sinister lies just beyond the reach of our vision, something we cannot see but that we nevertheless know is there. The Master of Rain
is an astonishing, haunting, masterful debut.”
–Lincoln Child, bestselling author of Utopia
“Beneath the surface of this clever book, a thrilling yarn of murder and mayhem, we find a wise, richly layered, and utterly convincing portrait of what was the most evil and fatally fascinating of all the modern world's cities. No one has managed to bring Shanghai so alive in all its ghastly splendor.”
–Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman
From the Hardcover edition.