The Twelfth Department by William Ryan

The Twelfth DepartmentIt is 1937 in Soviet Russia, Stalin is in power and Alexei Korolev is a detective in the Moscow police department. Although divorced from his wife, Zhenia, he is looking forward to a visit from his son, Yuri. He has six days off and he intends to get to know his 12-year-old son better. But everything planned is about to be turned upside down. The murder of an important professor is going to require Korolev’s undivided attention.

Korolev realizes that he must tread carefully because the victim, Professor Azarov, has important connections to the Russian government. With Nadezhda Slivka assigned as part of his team, he heads off to the apartment where the body was found. Azarov was shot in the back of the head, but it is possible that he knew his killer. Because of the government connections, Korolev finds the professor’s colleagues have a natural reluctance to provide much information about him.

And then everything is turned upside down again. Korolev is asked to drop his investigation. He assumes the murder has more to do with internal security than just a random murder, and he goes off with Yuri to enjoy some time together, but it is not going to work out. When he tries to get in touch with his ex-wife, he finds out she is unavailable – and two men seem to be trailing him and Yuri.   Some horrible secrets are going to be revealed and Korolev doesn’t know if he can stay out of the government’s internal affairs.

Ryan‘s thriller reminds me of Martin Cruz Smith‘s tales of detective Arkady Renko, but his thriller can certainly stand on it’s own. It makes me wonder how much different today’s Russia is than the place where Korolev is trying to solve first one murder and then another connected to the same institution.

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