The White Russian by Tom Bradby. This historical mystery set in the winter months prior to the start of the 1917 Russian Revolution follows Sandro Ruzsky, chief investigator of the St. Petersburg police department, and his struggles with a series of murders in a city on the brink. Ruzsky, just returned from exile in Siberia and estranged from both his wife and his noble father, attempts to unravel a complex conspiracy with political ramifications while facing dangerous opposition from the Okhrana, the Tsar’s secret police, and also overcoming his personal demons. Readers of Bradby’s first mystery, The Master of Rain, will find many similar themes: murder by stabbing, a hero new to or returning to a city in turmoil, corrupt and competing law enforcement organizations, and a beautiful femme fatale. However, Bradby’s descriptive abilities make these titles unique as he captures first the heat of summer in Shanghai and then the bitter cold of winter in St. Petersburg.
For other historical mysteries set in Imperial Russia, I recommend Boris Akunin’s series of books featuring Erast Fandorin. The Winter Queen, set in 1876, is the first in the series. Or if one prefers the mid-1860s Russia of Dostoyevsky, then The Gentle Axe by R.N. Morris, a “faux sequel” to Crime and Punishment, is quite good as well.