Paranoia and tension permeate 1930s Moscow in The Twelfth Department, William Ryan’s third mystery novel to feature the ever harried Moscow police detective Captain Korolev. The tightly-woven story kicks off with a fast moving prologue, as Korolev and his cohorts capture the head of the Grey Fox gang in one of Moscow’s parks. This is a neat little scene with a great sense of time and place and smartly introduces us to some of the major players in The Twelfth Department’s cast of characters.
After this case, Korolev is supposed to be on leave, taking care of his estranged son Yuri for the week, but this is interrupted when Professor Boris Azarov, Director of the mysterious Azarov Institute is shot dead in an exclusive apartment, in the shadow of the Kremlin.
Almost as soon as he starts his investigation, however, Korolev is taken off the case. So he heads off to the countryside with Yuri but there is a knock on the door in the middle of the night, Korlev is dragged back to Moscow and Yuri goes missing.
Ryan’s atmospheric writing is typically smooth and full of vivid, cinematic images. The story is a compelling, twisting and turning investigation and Korolev and the other characters are very well drawn- especially Count Kolya, leader of the Moscow Thieves. All in all, fantastic stuff.