The Darkening Field: Book summary and reviews of The Darkening Field by William Ryan

The Darkening Field

A Novel

By William Ryan

The Darkening Field
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2012,
    352 pages.

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Book Summary

Captain Alexei Korolev, unwavering in his outward party loyalty but internally conflicted, a dedicated policeman caught in terrifying circumstances, is one of the most intriguing figures in crime fiction since his literary ancestor Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko.

Now it is 1937, Russia, and Korolev finds himself on an airplane bound for Odessa after the suspicious suicide there of Maria Alexandrovna Lenskaya, a loyal young party member who had an intimate relationship with the party director, with instructions to find her killer and keep her ties to the director under wraps.

In Odessa, the girl was working on the set of a movie subsidized by the state, and between all those involved in the production, her journalist boyfriend, and nosy locals, there is a large pool of suspects. Korolev finds help from several quarters, including his writer friend Isaac Babel and an ambitious young local policewoman, but also Kolya, the head of Moscow’s thieves, whose appearance in Odessa comes as quite a shock. But it is not as surprising as the treasonous plot Korolev uncovers in this second gripping, devastatingly true-to-life thriller from William Ryan.

First published in the UK as A Bloody Meadow

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. The plot is intricate, the action satisfying, and Ryan's use of period detail, including the brutal 'collectivization' of the Ukraine and that region's nationalist and anarchist movements, makes for exhilarating reading." - Booklist

"Though he's not quite as fully realized as Stuart Kaminskys Porfiry Rostnikov, the appealing Karolev in his second appearance invites comparison to him. That’s high praise indeed." - Kirkus

"While an ever-widening cast and a few too many twists tend to undermine the story's clear logic and atmospheric feel, readers will want to see more of Korolev, a weary but determined cop who puts justice ahead of Stalinist politics - at his peril." - Publishers Weekly

"Ryan's main characters are strong and believable, the dialog is crisply idiomatic, and Odessa's cityscape is grimly foreboding. Ryan's Korolev is on a brilliant trajectory to join the ranks of respected European detectives." - Library Journal

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 2 of 5 of 5 by Gunta K. (Glens Falls, NY)
Old Tactics of Former Soviet Union
I did not like the book. Tactics of the old Soviet Union rehashed in a slow moving tale. Those readers who are of a certain age, know Soviet history, even they will not find the plot interesting enough to hold their attention. Readers born after 1960 will be put off by descriptions of incidents mired in Soviet history known only to those who are history buffs of that time or, have some familial connection to that area. The continuous plot within a plot is quite confusing as it is all built on Soviet politics, restrictions of the population, rules and regulations which change with each day or whichever military official is in power on any given week. The intent of the author is to show the Soviet undermining of the citizenry by various government threats, corruption, secret spying of and among families, creating constant fear. The author does not pull this feeling off in this reader. This is not a page turner

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Judith W. (Brooklyn, NY)
Good Russian Cop
I enjoyed this book and liked the main character. A good solid police procedural in an unusual setting in a time period and place I am unfamiliar with, and about which I would now like to learn more. Will definitely be reading the author's first novel and look forward to the next.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Chris W. (Temple City, CA)
The Darkening Field
I really enjoyed the combination of murder mystery and political intrigue. We got to follow the leads as the detectives uncovered them. The pre-World War II setting in Russia was well described along with the conflicts some people felt with their government. The distrust of others, the fear of appearing disloyal to the government, the worry of the detectives about how high in the government the leads would take them, all were ever present in the story. I will read the author's first book now and definitely recommend this book to others. It would provide many avenues of discussion for a book club.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Les G. (Fort Collins, CO)
Great mystery
The Darkening Field by William Ryan is a wonderful murder mystery set in 1937 Soviet Russia. When Captain Alexi Korolev of Moscow's Criminal Investigation Division is sent to Odessa to investigate the murder of a young actress, he uncovers a plot much more twisted than he could have imagined. This is a first-rate mystery that perfectly captures the overriding fog of terror in Stalin's Russia, where even an innocent mistake or mishap is enough to doom you, your coworkers, and your entire family.

Thanks to Book Browse's First Impressions for a chance to read this advance readers' edition.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Katherine T. (Atlanta, Georgia)
Darkening field
It was very difficult to get through this book. I wanted to like it; mystery, Russian History. Sounded good. Two issues; I had a hard time figuring out the detective, Alexei Korolev. Maybe if I had the first book staring him. Not sure his motivations and what he feels. The second issue is the idea of the murder itself. Hard to feel sympathetic towards the dead woman in the mist of so much other tragedy and depression. Looking for the culprit of one murder when the book mentions the mass killings. Not that the death of one is less important, but it feels that way in the book. Some interesting facts on Russia.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Judith P. (rosebud, missouri)
Character study of a place and time.
The USSR in the 1930's is the main character of this story of murder and political intrigue. Trying to solve a crime and keep the different entities from putting the detective in prison or the gulag. Very insightful into the suffering of the people in the name of a political system.

...20 more reader reviews

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William Ryan is an Irish writer, living in London. His first novel, The Holy Thief, was shortlisted for The UK Crime Writer's Association "New Blood" Dagger Award, The Irish Fiction Award, a Barry Award, and The Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award. For more information, visit www.william-ryan.com.

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