A dedicated policeman caught in terrifying circumstances, Captain Alexei Korolev of Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Militia may be unwavering in his outward party loyalty but he is forever conflicted about what he must do to maintain that good standing.
It is 1937, and Korolev finds himself on an airplane bound for Odessa after the suspicious suicide of Maria Alexandrovna Lenskaya, a loyal young party member who supposedly had an illicit intimate relationship with the party director. His instructions are to determine if her suicide was actually a cover-up for murder, and if so, to find her killer, but under no circumstances reveal her close ties to the director.
Maria was working on the set of a movie subsidized by the state, and between everyone involved in the production, her journalist boyfriend, and countless nosy locals, the pool of possible suspects is large and daunting. Korolev finds help from several quarters that are every bit as ominous as they are useful, but none of them can make up for the one important fact of his case which he cannot discuss.
Moral, loyal, and also committed to justice, Captain Alexei Korolev is trapped between the demands of the party and those of the truth. As a result he is one of the most intriguing figures in crime fiction, and he makes The Darkening Field another shocking and devastatingly true-to-history thriller from William Ryan.
Praise for The Darkening Field
“Booklist lauded Ryan’s first Korolev novel, The Holy Thief, and this successor fully delivers on the promise of that judgment. Korolev is a wonderful character, a spiritual ancestor of Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko, persevering amid the murderous paranoia of Stalin’s Russia. The plot is intricate, the action satisfying, and Ryan’s use of period detail, including the brutal “collectivization“ of the Ukraine and that region’s nationalist and anarchist movements, makes for exhilarating reading."
--Booklist (starred review)
Praise for The Holy Thief
"One of the year's most exciting [debuts].... While the search for Russian icons will bring to mind Martin Cruz Smith's brilliant Gorky Park, Ryan puts a fresh, original spin on the briskly paced The Holy Thief delving into Soviet politics, culture and corruption."
--Oline H. Cogdill, Florida Sun-Sentinel
“Korolev also is a moral, compassionate man who becomes increasingly horrified by Soviet society... This is British writer William Ryan's first historical mystery... One hopes there is more of Korolev to come.”
--Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Impressive... Ryan, who merits comparison to Tom Rob Smith, makes palpable the perpetual state of fear of being reported as disloyal, besides dramatizing the difficulty of being an honest cop in a repressive police state. Readers will hope Korolev has a long career ahead of him."
--Publishers Weekly (starred)
"Remarkable thriller.... In his solitude and resolve, Ryan's Korolev evokes Martin Cruz Smith's fierce Arkady Renko, while the period detail and gore call to mind Tom Rob Smith."
“William Ryan brilliantly captures the eerie paranoia of Stalinist Moscow, which serves as an endlessly fascinating background for his compelling tale. This is a non-stop page-turner and a remarkable debut."
--David Liss, author of The Devil’s Company