Dmitri and the Milk-Drinkers

Dmitri and the Milk-Drinkers by Michael Pearce. I have previously raved about Pearce’s Mamur Zapt series set in British-controlled Egypt and his “Dead Man” series of the same time period. I’ve also enjoyed several historical mysteries set in Tsarist Russia. So I was curious to find that Pearce had written a short-lived series about a young lawyer in 1890s Russia. In the first of the two books, readers are introduced to Dmitri Kameron, an idealistic yet ambitious Examining Magistrate, fresh from law school and just starting his career in the Tsarist legal bureaucracy. After assisting a beautiful woman from a politically-connected family into the yard outside the court house in Kurst, he returns to his work only to be informed by the senior judge the next day that the girl has disappeared and that Dmitri is now responsible for finding her. His initial investigation leads to the conclusion that she was mistakenly placed on one of the prison wagons destined for Siberia. Diligently pursuing his prey, Dmitri ends up in a frontier asylum, but falls afoul of the prison governor with his persistent questions. In the end, Dmitri resolves his search by partnering with some strange allies, but what he eventually discovers shakes his belief in his future career.

Pearce’s formulaic, yet entertaining, combination of witty dialog and well-paced narrative are as much in evidence here as in his other series, but for some reason the interrogative approach of his investigator doesn’t seem to work as well on the Russian tundra as it does in a Cairo marketplace or a Mediterranean plaza. However, this failing won’t keep me from trying to locate the second book through ILL after getting this one thanks to the Los Angeles Public Library. First though, I’ll return to the “Dead Man” series, this time in Tangier.

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