cover image Red Ink

Red Ink

Gregory S. Dinallo, Greg Dinallo. Pocket Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-73313-1

Nikolai Katkov is a freelance journalist in Moscow, short on work and money, an ex-political prisoner pushing 40 and probably an alcoholic to boot. The mysterious murder of an Interior Ministry bureaucrat promises him a big story: Was the victim about to blow a whistle? Was he involved in smuggling money out of Russia? Hunting down leads, dogged Niko is soon followed, threatened by local mafiya types, thrown in jail and shot at. He loses his story to an ambitious young reporter possibly allied to a devious Moscow Militia officer, only to be contacted by brassy Gabriella Scotto, a U.S. Treasury agent hot on the money-laundering trail of a Russian-born American billionaire, a case that ties in directly with Niko's lost story. The duo's quest for the truth takes Niko to Washington, Florida and Cuba before returning him to Moscow. Dinallo ( Final Answers ) neatly shows the turmoil and hand-to-mouth desperation of Moscow life (the near impossibility of obtaining coffee; Scientology classes offered at Moscow State Univ.), and his pacing is properly frenetic, but he can't seem to decide if Niko, who narrates, is Woody Allen or Bruce Willis. The surprise ending may look like waffling to some readers, but all will enjoy the breakneck roller-coaster ride getting there. Reader's Digest Condensed Book Club selection. (July)