Today I’m delighted to share my thoughts on Motherland, book one in the Natalya Ivanova series by G.D. Abson. I’ve had this book on my to be read pile for far too long, so with the publication of the paperback for book two tomorrow, it seemed a perfect time to pull the book to the top of the pile and tuck in. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
MOTHERLAND is the first in a gripping series of contemporary crime novels set in contemporary St Petersburg, featuring sharp and intriguing policewoman, Captain Natalya Ivanova.
Student Zena Dahl, the daughter of a Swedish millionaire, has gone missing in St Petersburg after a night out with a friend. The wealthy family are putting the force under pressure to get quick results. But Captain Natalya Ivanova discovers that the case is not as straightforward as it may seem. Dark, violent and insightful, Motherland twists and turns to a satisfyingly dramatic conclusion.
Motherland will appeal to fans of Jo Nesbo and Scandi dramas like The Killing and The Bridge.Available from: Amazon | Waterstones
I met the author, G.D Abson, at Crimefest in Bristol a couple of years ago and I will admit, when he started to tell us about the premise of this book I was completely intrigued. A strong female cop in (an allegedly) corrupt Russia, fighting to find justice for a missing student. I bought the book straight away (I’m nice like that).
Now that I’ve read it, I see I made a very wise choice and I’m only sad I took so long to get to it. Motherland is a brilliant debut, combining the kind of feeling you get from a true thriller, with police procedural and almost a sense of the spy novel about it too with the central character, Natalya Ivanova battling not only the corruption of her own police force but also trying to stay out of the sights of the FSB agents who are doing all they can to derail her investigation.
The book drew me in from the off, with the focus initially on soon-to-be-missing student, Zena Dahl. You automatically get the sense that she is a young woman searching for something, but quite what remains to be seen. From the point she leaves her friend Julia behind at a nightclub, you feel that something ominous is about to happen, and from this point on it falls to Captain Natalya Ivanova to piece together what happened on that fateful night and why anyone might want to abduct Zena, if that is what has happened.
The story is full of mystery and the author lays the foundations well, slowly building the story, layer by layer, combining a well paced narrative with brilliantly descriptive passages putting the reader at the heart of St Petersburg. I will admit that I fairly well avoid reading about Russian Politics, so reading this book certainly gave me pause for thought and put the very nature of the system front and centre. I love reading about the organisation of other police forces and Russia’s seems about as distant from our own native force as you can get, if only because of the inherent and blatant layers of corruption portrayed in this book. Of course, this is purely fiction, but perhaps very believable fiction given all that has happened in these past couple of years.
Natalya Ivanova is a brilliant lead character. A true force for the moral good in a sea of corruption, it is not hard to see why her career may have stalled at the stage she is at. She is somewhat atypical of the police that the Russian citizens have come to know, believing in hard work and honesty above all else. She will not accept bribes and will not be dissuaded from discovering the truth, even when under threat from the FSB, and you have to admire her for it. The author has placed her perfectly. She is not superwoman or some overly righteous crusader – that would make her rather annoying and hard to gel with. She is a step mother, a wife. Down to earth, determined and ultimately very likeable, with all the normal concerns of any other woman, including how to maintain her beliefs when all around her are trying to force her to do otherwise. I found it really easy to spend time with her, wanting to see her come good and find the truth, as well as get one over on those in her department who seemed against her.
She is not the only character to take centre stage and her husband, Major Mikhail Ivanov, is another fascinating character. Perhaps not as straight as his wife, he is still another well principled man, something that, along with his connection to Natalya, is stalling his own career. His best friend, Sergeant Rogov, works directly for Natalya and it was hard to get a handle on him. He seems to put his career above all else, but still has the capacity to surprise if given half a chance.
This is not a fast paced spy novel or thriller in that sense, but it is full of mystery and with characters who are reticent in speaking up about what is really happening, it is hard to know exactly who to trust and who not to. It will keep you on edge though, and at times, particularly towards the end it gets the adrenaline pumping, the tension rising as Natalya faces not only a dramatic showdown but also a final bid to discover the truth.
I was engrossed from start to finish, and the book had me turning the pages quickly, a touch of the ‘one more chapter’ syndrome stealing some of my precious hours of sleep as a result. It’s the perfect book for people who like to read about strong female protagonists in a slightly less traditional setting. A great start to the series and one I’d definitely recommend.
About the Author
G.D. Abson was born in County Durham and grew up on army bases in Germany and Singapore before returning to the North-East. He is the author of Motherland, the first in a series featuring Senior Investigator Natalya Ivanova, and was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger.
Author links: Twitter