cover image The Twelfth Department

The Twelfth Department

William Ryan. Minotaur, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-58652-2

The shooting murder of Boris Azarov, a high-level Russian scientist conducting secret psychological research, propels Ryan’s excellent third pre-WWII thriller featuring Alexei Korolev, a Moscow CID detective (after 2012’s The Darkening Field). Korolev, a methodical, almost plodding investigator, gets assigned to the case, but he soon realizes that several arms of the secret police either want him to back off entirely or to arrest someone just to clear the books. Korolev gets a quick demonstration of the power he’s up against: his 12-year-old son, Yuri, is kidnapped amid subtle assurances that the boy will be returned safely if Korolev goes with the flow. While the police work will keep readers engaged, the series’ chief strength comes from Ryan’s skillful evocation of everyday life under Stalin. Ordinary Soviet citizens, Korolev included, have become resigned to all forms of corruption and hypocrisy, yet must still wear the mask of communist devotion. Agent: Andrew Gordon, David Higham Associates (U.K.). (July)