cover image The Darkening Field

The Darkening Field

William Ryan. Minotaur, $24.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-312-58651-5

Ryan’s compelling if less than fully satisfying second Stalin-era thriller (after 2010’s The Holy Thief) takes Moscow CID detective Alexei Korolev to 1937 Odessa to look into the apparent suicide of Maria Lenskaya, a production assistant on a movie called The Darkening Field, found hanging in her room near the set. When Korolev examines the body, he detects marks indicating “that the rope she was found hanging from was not the cause of death.” Korolev joins forces with a gutsy junior detective from the Odessa CID, Nadezhda Slivka, to pursue the subsequent murder investigation. As the two interview reluctant witnesses and fight Communist bureaucracy, they must avoid making any political missteps. While an ever-widening cast and a few too many twists tend to undermine the story’s clear logic and atmospheric feel, readers will want to see more of Korolev, a weary but determined cop who puts justice ahead of Stalinist politics—at his peril. 75,000-copy first printing. Agent: David Higham Associates. (Jan.)