cover image Madness Treads Lightly

Madness Treads Lightly

Polina Dashkova, trans. from the Russian by Marian Schwartz. AmazonCrossing, $14.95 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-4778-2346-0

Moscow journalist Lena Polyanskaya, the heroine of this high-stakes thriller from best-selling Russian crime queen Dashkova (here making her English-language debut), knows better than most the risks of asking too many questions. Lena’s husband is a counterintelligence officer in the interior ministry. But when her best friend Olga’s brother, Mitya, hangs himself in a suspicious “suicide,” followed days later by his widow’s fatal apparent overdose, she feels compelled to investigate—putting herself and her precocious two-year-old daughter on a collision course with a serial killer. Lena scrambles to piece together the scant clues available, which appear to point back 14 years to the summer of 1982, when she, Mitya, and Olga were traveling by train through Siberia as part of an internship to promote a youth magazine—during which two young women were raped and murdered in the remote regions they were visiting. The sweeping plot, sinister as the Siberian taiga, does rely overly on coincidence, but such contrivance is more than outweighed by captivating storytelling, distinctive characters, and the eternal conundrum of Russia itself. (Sept.)