A very happy paperback birthday to G.D Abson as Black Wolf sees it’s pb debut today. Book two in the Natalya Ivanova series, these books just keep getting better and I’ve loved getting to know Natalya and her family and colleagues. With a big thank you to publisher Mirror Books who sent me a copy of the book to read, here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
A young woman is found dead on the outskirts of St Petersburg on a freezing January morning. There are no signs of injury, and heavy snowfall has buried all trace of an attacker.
Captain Natalya Ivanova’s investigation quickly links the victim to the Decembrists, an anti-Putin dissident group whose acts of civil disobedience have caught the eye of the authorities. And Natalya soon realises she is not the only one interested in the case, as government security services wade in and shut down her investigation almost before it has begun.
Before long, state media are spreading smear stories about the dead woman, and Natalya suspects the authorities have something to hide. When a second rebel activist goes missing, she is forced to go undercover to expose the truth. But the stakes are higher than ever before. Not only could her pursuit of the murderer destroy her career, but her family ties to one of the victims threaten to tear her personal life apart.
A captivating, pacy thriller that plunges right into the beating heart of Putin’s Russia.Available from Amazon | Waterstones
Oh I do love this series. It really has everything I look for in my reads – compelling storyline, great characters, a kind of blend of police procedural and political thriller, because there really is a political edge to this story in particular, far more so than in the previous book. The backdrop to the action is the presidential elections of 2017 in which it is almost guaranteed that Putin will be reelected, in spite of rising dissent from the populous. One group in particular – The Decembrists – are determined to expose the corruption of the Russian Government and undermine the efforts of the military, financial and Goverment forces that keep Putin in power.
It is this which garners the most focus of the story, but it is not how the book opens. The spotlight here is on a young runaway, Diana Maricheva, a girl who has a big secret and one which will put her at greater harm than she could have imagined. It is hard at first to see how this prologue, and Diana’s story in fact, fits into the main storyline, but it does and in quite alarming fashion.
This time around Natalya finds herself investigating the murder of a young mother who has ties to the Decembrists, but whose body is found frozen in a snow drift at the side of the remote highway. Because of the woman’s ties to a group who are essentially an anti-government organisation, Natalya finds herself quickly sidelined, the investigation handed over to Sledkom, the Russian equivalent of the FBI. But Natalya doesn’t give up that easily and despite mounting pressure, including threats to her family, she plows on.
I really enjoyed this story, if enjoyed is the right choice of words given the ultimate subject matter. It was a perfectly paced novel that combined action, mystery and an ultimate sense of threat, not only from the unknown killer, but also from within Natalya’s own police team. The new head of the Serious Crimes Unit has a real dislike of Natalya’s husband which adds a layer of conflict that only adds to the tension in the story, and with Sledkom intent on pushing Natalya away from the investigation, the pressure mounts with practically every page turn.
I love the way in which we see the friendship, if you can call it that, between Natalya and Rogov grow. There is a very (very) grudging respect between the two, and Rogov manages to surprise in the way in which he supports his Captain in this book. And she need support as she is really under the cosh. Probably the best partnership in this novel though is her friendship with criminalist, Leo Primakov. The two work so well together, his caution balancing against Natalya’s inherent determination, and they do make for an impressive, if unconventional, crime fighting pair. And with a larger role to play in this instalment, we learn much more about Primakov. I kind if like the unconventional, slightly awkwardness of him.
The story once again brings front and centre the issues of corruption at the heart of Government and the authorities who are charged with protecting the public of Russia. But wrapped around this is a real mystery, a kind of deadly game of cat and mouse that some of the key players don’t even realise they are playing. There is a ruthless killer at large and their identity is kept very well hidden. With a number of potential suspects, including the special service agents, I found myself even more engrossed in the story, trying to outwit the investigators in identifying the culprit. There was a point when certain clues were revealed that I had a fair idea of what was going on, if not quite the who or the extent of their predatory nature. I have seen similar storylines before but each is unique in its telling, and the remote, snow covered setting certainly makes for a very different kind of approach.
Rich in cultural and political setting, the author once again places the reader in the heart of the action and takes us on a thrilling ride that will both shock and please you in equal measure. There were times when everything seemed lost, and the real feeling of jeopardy at the end of the novel, when it seems Natalya will lose literally everything, makes for another high pressure ending that will have you on the end of your seat. I;m really enjoying this series and with how the author has left the Ivanov’s this time around, I’m itching to see what might happen next time around.
I see that the books have been optioned for a TV series and this would be absolutely brilliant. Such a fabulous blend of thrills, chills, action and political corruption, with cracking characters you can love to love AND love to hate, it seems like the perfect blend to me.
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