It was one of those days when Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov should have stayed in bed. After braving a ferocious storm, Rostnikov arrives inside the Petrovka headquarters only to find three very peculiar investigations waiting for him. First there's cosmonaut Tsimion Vladovka, whose last words on the space station Mir were instructions to contact Rostnikov if something went wrong with the mission. Now, Vladovka is missing and his fellow cosmonauts are turning up dead. Then there's filmmaker Yuri Kriskov, who is fearing for his life after being threatened by a chess-crazed lunatic who stole his documentary on Tolstoy. And finally, there's the scientist who was murdered while researching psychic phenomena during dream states. Inspector Rostnikov must find a connection between these very strange cases...before another murder can take place.
It's no coincidence that Chief Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov, Stuart Kaminsky's popular Moscow policeman, reads Ed McBain novels. McBain's 87th Precinct and its denizens are a lot like Kaminsky's Office of Special Investigation, and in this 13th outing in the author's series featuring Rostnikov and his colleagues, the parallels are particularly outstanding. Kaminsky, who also pens the Toby Peters, Abe Lieberman, and Lew Fonseca series, has published extensively on Hollywood icons such as Gary Cooper and Clint Eastwood, worth noting because his detectives share many of their qualities and more than a little of their style.
This lively thriller has Rostnikov and his investigators working three cases: the disappearance of a cosmonaut; the theft of the final negative of a Russian movie epic on the life of Tolstoy; and the murder of a parapsychologist. Each offers a handful of suspects, motives, and an opportunity for one of Rostnikov's detectives to take center stage: the inspector and his son Iosef on the search for the last survivor of a mission on Mir gone horribly (and secretly) wrong; Sasha, whose wife and children have left him and whose mother is driving him crazy, trying to sort out who's behind the extortion attempt on the movie producer; and Karpo and Zelach, assigned to the murder at the Center for the Study of Technical Parapsychology, where, to Zelach's dismay, his unusual (and unwelcome) telepathic gifts are accidentally discovered by a researcher who won't take no for an answer.
In due time, the cases are solved, the loose ends wrapped up, and the lives and loves of Rostnikov and his men have become as important to the reader as the guys at the 87th Precinct have become over time to McBain's readers. Both authors share a mastery of their craft, an unhurried but intellectually challenging pace, and a gift for characterization that is equaled by few other writers in the genre. --Jane Adams