cover image Dead Meat

Dead Meat

Philip Kerr. Mysterious Press, $18.95 (239pp) ISBN 978-0-89296-562-5

Kerr's most recent novel, A Philosophical Investigation , takes place in England in the near future, while his three-volume Bernhard Gunther series, begun with March Violets , is set in 1930s Berlin. Here he turns to modern-day Russia to trace an electrifying battle between the anemically funded Russian police and well-heeled ethnic Mafiosi who operate at will in post-Soviet St. Petersburg. An anonymous narrator--an Internal Affairs-type lawyer--monitors detective Yevgeni Ivanovich Grushko's efforts to nail mob thugs for the murder of an investigative journalist who had aired Mafia laundry and government scandal on TV. Grushko rousts the Ukrainian and Chechen mobsters, who rival the Georgians in the proliferation of scams, protection rackets and black-market action marking Russia's emerging private-sector economy. Struggling to investigate amid such impediments as red tape, public distrust of police, KGB rivalry, low police morale and minimal resources, Grushko even appeals for leads on a Geraldo Rivera-like show. While the detective inches toward a resolution connecting the Chernobyl disaster, the mob and a British-backed Russian capitalist venture, the narrator falls for the journalist's sexy widow and learns hard lessons from Grushko about fighting for justice in an unhinged society. In Kerr's literate dark novel, strains of romantic balalaika music blend with the sound of the sharp wind sweeping across the steppes. Readers will hope for more appearances of this new man from Moscow. (June)