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A Cold Red Sunrise by Stuart M. Kaminsky
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A Cold Red Sunrise (1988)

by Stuart M. Kaminsky

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Another 2013 discovery, as far as I'm concerned. Never heard of the guy, so everything came as total surprise. Sometimes it pays off to read something quite unexpected.

I've been digging up all of the Edgar Awards. Before getting hold of the complete list, I thought I knew everyone there was to know on the Crime Fiction Scene. Not so.

One of the things that surprised me was the portrayal of Siberia, which is quite mesmerizing. It captures an undeniably beautiful world frozen in time, not taking notice of the passing hordes of barbarians or Communists. Kaminsky is also wonderful at presenting the intrigue, the atmosphere and the complexities of Moscow during and after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The use of arctic for mysteries was relatively rare in the past, as far as I'm aware. Now we have Boris Akunin and the likes (Scandinavian Crime Fiction). In 1989 I don't remember anything remotely similar.

I've been always a sucker for the use of "place" as a literary device. The setting, the place, the local geography in many cases is as important as the plot. It is fair to say that the geographical elements set these novels apart and account for a large part of their popularity. For me that's one of the explanations for the Scandinavian Crime Fiction recent popularity, which sometimes also uses the geography artifact as a character as well and to good advantage (vide Arnaldur Indridason's novels set in Iceland).

There's something about these frigid landscapes that makes the Crime Fiction setting ideal for it.

Stuart M. Kaminsky was not on my radar. Now he is. Rostnikov is also very fond of Ed McBain novels... What's there not to like about a guy like him?

There was only two quibbles: Plot predictability and one of the sub-plots taking place in Moscow does not seem to add anything new to the novel.

Now I've got to find out whether there are any more of these Rostnikov's novels out there." ( )
  antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
I have been thoroughly enjoying my reread of the Inspector Rostnikov series of mysteries, but I must add that this particular entry is the best of the bunch. My rating might be partly based upon the author not identifying the murderer until the last few pages, and that the revelation of who killed the Commissar is a surprise, but not entirely: the author writes SO WELL, and his characters are old friends, well-developed, like-able. Recommended. ( )
  fuzzi | Apr 13, 2016 |
The old saying "red sky at night, sailor's delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning," apparently has some scientific validity. It even appears in the Bible (Matthew XVI:2-3) Something to do with the refraction of sunlight through dust particles at night meaning a high pressure and fair weather is on the horizon whereas in the morning, deep red means it's shining through a lot of water content in the clouds. Or something like that.

Whether Kaminsky had anything like that in mind with this title I have no idea, but it certainly reflects the trouble Inspector Rostnikov is headed for when he's sent to look into the murder of another inspector in outermost Siberia who was killed while investigating the killing of a dissident's child.

Kaminsky writes with great authority of Russia: its culture and history. While some readers may find the little historical snippets of Siberia distracting, I did not. I love that kind of background and setting. Kaminsky does it well: informative without being intrusive. The insertion of numerous Russian words I'll have to take on faith as being correct since I know no Russian at all.

My favorite character, I think is Emil Karpo who totally buffaloes the KGB masters with his totally PC responses to their queries and they have no idea if he's making fun of them or not. The scene where his supervisor accuses him of visiting a prostitute is classic. "That I meet this woman is true. That our meeting is intimate is also true. That it represents a weakness I also confirm. I find that I am not completely able to deny my animalism and that I can function, do the work of the state to which I have been assigned, with greater efficiency if I allow myself this indulgence rather than fight against it."

Both he and Rostnikov have been demoted and transferred to the traffic division, but the KGB knows Rostnikov to be a talented detective, but one who bears a lot of watching. In some respects, Rostnikov reminded me a little of Leon's Brunetti, a thoroughly honest cop surrounded by corruption and idiotic bureaucracy run by the clueless. There's a side plot involving another Rostnikov mentor, but I'll not reveal the plot.


Note: I remain a little puzzled why this book was distributed as an ARC, which is how I got it, since it's been available for several years. (Publishers Weekly reviewed it in 1988.) The same was true of another book, Crashed by Hallinan. There would seem to be plenty of reviews out there, so I'm not sure why more would be needed.

Then again, never look a gift horse in the mouth and I was pleased to read this and am happy to provide a review. I certainly enjoyed the book and will read more in the Rostnikov series. It has also encouraged me to purchase several other Rostnikov titles for my Kindle. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
This book is a perfect example of a frequent topic of discussion on the DorothyL list: "What takes you out of the story?" Since my dim dead past includes being a Russian literature major in college and serving as a Russian interpreter in the Army, the frequent errors when Kaminsky inserted transliterated Russian words into his narrative not only annoyed me, but made me doubt other aspects of the story. The river in Siberia is the Yenisei, not the "Yensei;" one cigarette is a papiros, two are papirosy; and so on.

Why are these things in the book? Well, Kaminsky apparently got the idea to write a series of police procedurals set in Moscow (this is the fifth) and did some research to give them verisimilitude. He has a habit of dropping hunks of research into the narrative which I found annoying as well, although my husband didn't object. (He got a little confused about the dates of Ivan the Terrible, but it was probably a typesetter's error that placed some of his activities in 1854!)

By now you might be wondering why I even gave this book three stars and why it won the Edgar for Best Novel in 1989, beating out Tony Hillerman's [b:A Thief of Time|425098|A Thief of Time (Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee Novels)|Tony Hillerman|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1174627232s/425098.jpg|2498914] and works by [a:K. C. Constantine|33703|K. C. Constantine|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nophoto/nophoto-U-50x66.jpg], [a:Thomas H. Cook|13746|Thomas H. Cook|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nophoto/nophoto-U-50x66.jpg] and [a:David Lindsey|109640|David L. Lindsey|http://www.goodreads.com/images/nophoto/nophoto-U-50x66.jpg]. The book did hold my interest, was well-written other than the research lumps, and had engaging characters and a believable setting. The plot? Well, to avoid spoilers I won't say much, but the primary motivation for the murder which begins the book seemed less than believable to us.

I can't say for sure whether I'll read any more of this author's work. The police characters are intriguing, but the errors in Russian will probably continue to annoy me. However, if you do not suffer from this handicap, you may very well enjoy the Porfiry Rostnikov series. ( )
  auntieknickers | Apr 3, 2013 |
A well written whodunit in a Russian background with a subtle sense of humour.. ( )
  adithyajones | Jul 29, 2011 |
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Epigraph
I stood there and I thought: what a full, intelligent and
brave life will some day illuminate these shores.

Anton Chekhov,
1890, in his travel notes,
on seeing the Yensei River in Siberia
Dedication
This book is dedicated to Shirley, Belle and Al
in St. Louis, which is, I am told, rather a long
distance from Siberia.
First words
Commissar Illya Rutkin tucked his briefcase under his arm, adjusted his goatskin gloves, pulled down his fur hat to cover his ears and tightened the scarf over his mouth before opening the door of the wooden house and stepping out into the Siberian morning.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 080410428X, Mass Market Paperback)

One Dead Commissar

At an icebound naval weather station in far Siberia, the young daughter of an exiled dies under suspicious circumstances. The high-ranking Commissar sent to investigate the mystery suffers a similar fate: he is murdered by an icicle thrust into his skull.

One Live Cop

Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov is dispatched to solve the Commissar's murder, with one caveat: he is not to investigate the girl's death. Even if all the clues tell him that the two cases are linked.

One Cold Killer

In a single, fateful day, Rostnikov will hear two confessions, watch someone die, conspire against the government, and nearly meet his own death. All under the watchful eye of the KGB -- and someone much closer and infinitely more terrifying.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:15 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Rostnikov is sent to investigate a brutal murder in icy Siberia but is hampered by a suspicious set of KGB rules.

» see all 2 descriptions

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