2015 Book of the Year: The Red Moth

Book of the Year, Best Historical Mystery. The Red Moth by Sam Eastland. Three years ago, I chose one of William Ryan’s mysteries set in Russia as Best Historical Mystery. At the time, I also recommended Sam Eastland’s Inspector Pekkala series set in Stalinist Soviet Union featuring Inspector Pekkala, the former personal detective for Tsar Nicholas II. Pekkala was sentenced to a Siberian work camp once the Bolsheviks seized power, but was brought back by the paranoid Stalin because he doesn’t trust any of his own men and because of Pekkala’s unique skills. Pekkala is a fascinating lead character, who struggles to reconcile working for a man he despises with his love for his country and its people’s need for justice. I do suggest starting the series from the beginning with The Eye of the Tsar, but if you don’t feel like reading all the books, then The Red Moth, the fourth book, is the best one yet. The Germans are marching towards Stalingrad and Moscow in the early stages of the war. In addition to capturing territory every week, they are also continuing to plunder the artworks of their defeated opponents. So when a small German plane is shot down near the old Tsarina’s palace and the passengers commit suicide rather than be captured and interrogated regarding their cargo, it raises Stalin’s suspicions. The Germans carried with them only a small painting of a red moth and the Supreme Leader assigns Pekkala and Major Kirov to discover its meaning and whatever else the Germans might be planning. This particular story reveals even more of Pekkala’s history as he is reconnected to people from his past and eventually heads behind enemy lines to a home he left far behind. The main tale is told at a blitzkrieg pace, but still allows for secondary characters and sub-plots to be developed. And the cliffhanger ending will leave you wanting more. Fortunately, book five, The Beast in the Red Forest, has already come out. In fact, it is a lot easier to find than The Red Moth, which has not been published in the U.S. yet, but it is worth the effort to track down.

For all my previous “books of the year” lists, see my dedicated page for these titles.

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