Stalin’s most trusted secret agent, the legendary Inspector Pekkala, is on his deadliest mission—one that could save his country . . . or plunge it into the abyss.
It is 1939. Russia teeters on the verge of war with Germany. It is also on the brink of bankruptcy. To preserve his regime, Stalin orders a search for the legendary missing gold of Tsar Nicholas II. For this task, he chooses Pekkala, the former investigator for the Tsar. To accomplish his mission, Pekkala will go undercover, returning to Siberia and the nightmare of his own past, where he was once a prisoner in the notorious Gulag known as Borodok.
Pekkala must infiltrate a gang of convicts still loyal to the Tsar who, it is rumored, know the whereabouts of the precious gold. He soon learns that the best-kept secrets are those that no one even knows exist.
In the brutal frozen fortress where his survival once made him a myth, he begins to unravel the true identity of a murdered inmate, whose own mission to Siberia has lain buried for years deep within the mysterious Archive 17, where long-lost files obscure a shocking conspiracy that could decide the future of the Soviet Union itself. As more people die around him, Pekkala must decide where his true loyalties lie, or else take his place among the dead.
With the superb research and stunning suspense that are his trademarks, Sam Eastland delivers his most powerful Pekkala novel yet—the best in a mystery series riveting readers and reviewers alike.
The pseudonymous Eastland's excellent third thriller set in the Soviet Union under Stalin (after 2011's Shadow Pass) makes the most of the remote location of much of the book's action Siberia. Countless lives hang on the caprice of Joseph Stalin, including that of Inspector Pekkala, a former czarist guard who served time as a political prisoner before becoming Stalin's (mostly) trusted investigator. In 1939, the dictator sends Pekkala to his old labor camp, Borodok, to look into the murder of Isaac Ryabov, a former cavalry captain and one of the last surviving colleagues of Colonel Kolchak, a close ally of the Russian imperial family. Pekkala must go undercover to catch whoever slit Ryabov's throat and stay in the good graces of Stalin, who fears that Ryabov's demise may pose a threat to his rule. Eastland (British author Paul Watkins) captures the brutality of Borodok and the barren desolation of the surrounding area, while maintaining a consistently high level of suspense.