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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
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • Published in USA  Jan 2012
    352 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

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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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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.

Barbara E. (rockville, MD)

The Darkening Field
I would highly recommend this mystery. Set in 1937 in Stalinist Russia, the plot revolves around the murder of a young woman working on a film set. The murder quickly turns into a much more complicated affair with the revelation of old crimes and many dark secrets. The author creates an evocative atmosphere of dread ad oppression, in which any remark, thought or past allegiance can lead to imprisonment or death. Although set in a world in which human life seems to hold little value, William Ryan gives us a detective of extraordinary humanity in Alexei Korolev. His female counterpart, Nadezhda Slivka, is a breath of fresh air and irony in the midst of an oppressive regime. The mystery is complex but enthralling and the ending does not disappoint. I would highly recommend this work to anyone who craves a deeply satisfying and atmospheric historical mystery.

Sarah C. (Cape Girardeau, MO)

The Darkening Field by William Ryan
What a Fun read! it is not everyday you get a chance to read a classic western/mystery/thriller and historical fiction all rolled into one. It was a little work keeping the names straight, but well worth it. Highlights a difficult era in our past in a way that makes no apologies, and is entertaining.

Harriette K. (Northbrook, IL)

The Darkening Field
A police detective from Moscow is sent to the Odessa area to investigate a suspicious death, and we are plunged into 1937 Communist U.S.S.R. I started reading with low expectations, and then the plot, the time in history and the frightening world the characters lived in grabbed me. The book was totally engrossing, and left me wanting to know more about the protagonist, Alexei Korolev. He is interested in doing the right thing, but also fears for his safety and that of his son in a world where intrigue is the norm. I will now go on to read the author's first book featuring this character. I recommend this book to all lovers of suspense.

Susan F. (Rabun Gap, GA)

Unique Thriller
As a history buff and recent visitor to the Odessa catacombs, I found The Darkening Field a unique thriller with the backdrop, ever present, of life in Soviet Russia in 1937. It was the time of the Great Terror, a time of a series of campaigns by Joseph Stalin to purge the unloyal and repress and execute many. No one was safe and no one could be trusted.

Such is the atmosphere in which Alexei Korolev, a moral man, must operate as a detective with the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department. This time, he must find the murderer of Maria Lenskaya, a production assistant on a new propaganda film being made in Ukraine. As the story twists and turns, I enjoyed the portrayal of Korolev as he must evaluate each suspect not only on their personal relationship to the victim, but also on their, often hidden, political persuasion as well. An invaluable aid was a listing of the book's characters which helped me sort out the many Russian names.

I highly recommend this second tale of Detective Alexei Korolev. Hopefully, a third is in the making.

Trezeline B. (Columbia, MD)

The Darkening Field
A very riveting book. Korolev, a Soviet detective is called upon to investigate a murder. There is a possibility that what he discovers could offend or involve higher ups in the Soviet structure in a very dangerous 1937 in the Russian history. This possibility makes for an exciting read.

...20 more reader reviews

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More Information

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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