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Shadow Pass (APA The Red Coffin) by Sam…

Shadow Pass (APA The Red Coffin) (2011)

by Sam Eastland

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Inspector Pekkala (2)

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1583975,572 (3.6)42
  1. 20
    Archangel by Robert Harris (tcarter)
    tcarter: For my money Harris makes a much better fist of characterising Stalin and writes a more compelling mystery.

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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
For a long time, I wasn't really sure which way to go on this one.

Was it long and dull and miserable, with not an awful lot of any consequence happening after the initial, interesting set-up?

Or was it a slow-burning, languid, subtle study of a police investigation in late '30's Russia? A Russia still remembering and indeed revering the rule of the Tsars, whilst feeling its way forward into the true terror of the workers paradise Stalin had in store. A story where all that goes before the final third, builds quite nicely, everything falling into place, making sense and almost excusing the rather misleading cover blurb.

In the end, I think the latter has won out. But with a hefty dose of the former.

So, as the cover blurb has it;

"A secret weapon. A suspicious death. A world on the edge of war."

Yes, that's all true. But if you're looking for a fast-moving, thrilling, tense war-time novel, look elsewhere. After the set-up and before the final conclusion in the forests on the Russia/Poland border, the story sags tremendously, gets lost in morbid reminiscences and descriptions of Russian life at the ourtbreak of WWII and generally moves at a snail's pace.

The saving grace is, that if you give up expecting it to be what it isn't, a fast-paced WWII espionage thriller, it actually works quite well. The languid descriptions of Inspector Pekkala's life under Stalin and his previous life working closely with the last Tsar, Tsarina and Rasputin, are actually very interesting. Though it must be something of a cliche, that Russians are always morose. But life at that time was bleak and Sam Eastland captures the feeling of hoplessnes and nothing to look forward to except possible impending doom, quite effectively. The snail's pace actually turns out to be a considered and reflective examination of the old and 'new' Russia and generally makes you very glad you weren't around at the time. Or if you were around at that time, that you weren't unfortunate enough to be around in Russia. And especially not around Stalin.

I've got to admit that in reading 'The Red Coffin', I didn't recognise the novel all the quoted reviewers seem to have read. Maybe they're describing what seems to be the other, the first Inspector Pekkala story? But I did finally think I enjoyed this one, and will look out for the first, 'Eye Of The Red Tsar', going cheap in my local bookstore, as this one was. ( )
  Speesh | Mar 29, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers Program and it has taken me a while to read and review it!

I haven't read Eastland's first book about Inspector Pekkala but had no difficulty in understanding the background to the novel - it works well as a stand-alone. It's a fast paced plot with flashbacks to Pekkala's earlier life as an investigator for the Tsar. In this book it is 1939 during the build up to war with Germany and Pekkala is now an investigator for Stalin. He is charged with discovering the murderer of Colonel Nagorski.

An excellent book! ( )
  BooksPlease | Jul 20, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers Program, but managed to delay receiving it by 12 months*

This is apparently the second novel by Sam Eastland to feature the central character of Inspector Pekkala, although it was the first I had read. Overall the story was engaging and the character of Pekkala is interesting. While the central storyline is a fairly standard crime novel, the setting in early years of the Soviet Union and Inspector Pekkala's links to the previous Csar makes for a number of sub plots and flashback sequences that held considerable promise. In the end I found these a little distracting as they do not connect with the main story line at any point. I guess this is intentional - the complexity of solving what is essentially a routine crime in the midst of a totally bizarre regime - but I was expecting something altogether grander as the book reached its conclusion.

* My own fault, I moved country without telling Librarything quickly enough! ( )
  jhoddinott | Mar 8, 2012 |
The Red Coffin

This was the second novel featuring Inspector Pekkala and was rather better than the first. While the concept of untouchability behind his character is still unbelievable, Pekkala as an actual character here was more humanly fallible and believable, less of a superman. The actual plot was a little far fetched, but did make this a good page turner. I am still a bit annoyed by the author's habit of calling characters after famous Russian figures, here the examples being Kirov, Pekkala's assistant, and Kropotkin. Still, an upward curve for this series and I will certainly be reading the next one. 4/5 ( )
  john257hopper | Feb 11, 2012 |
Readers of Eye of the Red Tsar will welcome the return of Inspector Pekkala, Special Investigator to both Stalin and the last Russian Tsar: impossible to avoid making comparisons to Martin Cruz Smith’s investigator Arkady Renko since both men worked under contrasting regimes, both are impeccably – even boringly – honourable, and both have suffered in love.

In 1939 Stalin saw war with Germany as inevitable, despite the pact with Hitler, and started developing a ‘super tank’, known as the Red Coffin. When the man who built the tank is killed, Pekkala is sent to investigate, and so begins a tale of murder, betrayal and political terrorism.

Pekkala walks a tightrope between appeasing Stalin and finding the truth, and we are treated to frequent flashbacks of his previous existence under the Tsar, and the woman he loved and lost. An easy and fairly interesting read. ( )
  adpaton | Nov 18, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sam Eastlandprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Michael, PaulNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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As the motorcycle crested the hill, sunlight winked off the goggles of the rider.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Published in UK as The Red Coffin; Published in the US as Shadow Pass
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Book description
Inspector Pekkala is enlisted by Stalin himself to look into the death of one of the Soviet Union's top military engineers. Colonel Nagorski was given untold millions to build a weapon that could end all wars and give the Soviet Union the type of military might that would make all its enemies tremble. When he is found dead next to his weapon, a marvel of technology called The Red Coffin, Pekkala is called upon to investigate a murder tantamount to treason. But finding the truth is never easy in the Soviet Union, and Pekkala must use all his clandestine experience and unrivaled intelligence to navigate the treacherous waters of Stalin's politics. For while some truth must be revealed, some secrets must remain buried...
It is 1939. The world stands on the brink of Armageddon. In the Soviet Union, years of revolution, fear and persecution have left the country unprepared to face the onslaught of Nazi Germany. For the coming battles, Stalin has placed his hopes on a 30-ton steel monster, known to its inventors as the T-34 tank, and, the 'Red Coffin' to those men who will soon be using it.

But the design is not yet complete. And when Colonel Nagorski, the weapon's secretive and eccentric architect, is found murdered, Stalin sends for Pekkala, his most trusted investigator. Stalin is convinced that a sinister group calling itself the White Guild, made up of former soldiers of the Tsar, intend to bring about a German invasion before the Red Coffin is ready. While Soviet engineers struggle to complete the design of the tank, Pekkala must track down the White Guild and expose their plans to propel Germany and Russia into conflict.
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Inspector Pekkala returns to find himself enlisted by Stalin to investigate the death of one of the Soviet Union's top military engineers. However, finding the truth in the Soviet Union is never easy.

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