Monday, March 25, 2013

Eye of the Red Tsar: Sam Eastland

Summary from the author’s website for this series:
It is the time of the Great Terror.

Inspector Pekkala - known as the Emerald Eye - was once the most famous detective in all Russia, the favourite of the Tsar. Now he is the prisoner of the men he once hunted.

Like millions of others, he has been sent to the gulags in Siberia and, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, he is as good as dead. But a reprieve comes when he is summoned by Stalin himself to investigate a crime.
Eye of the Red Tsar falls into several categories I like. Historical fiction is a favorite, especially stories set between World War I and World War II. Mysteries set in Russia; I don’t know why but stories of Russia intrigue me. The story is told in alternating sections; one section will focus on the time of the story, the other is flashbacks to earlier times. I have always liked books that use this format and I especially enjoyed the flashbacks in this book.

For at least the first three-quarters of the book, I loved the way the story was told and had no criticisms. I was immediately pulled in by the story and the peek back at earlier days in Pekkala’s life. Toward the end of the book, I began to have reservations and I did not see the ending as fulfilling the promise of the rest of the book.

Some of the characters could have been developed more fully. We know a lot about Pekkala, his experiences and the strength of his convictions, but he doesn’t have a lot of depth. Pekkala’s brother is involved in the investigation, but the relationship and the issues between them were glossed over. Perhaps saved for future books? I did like the characterization of Kirov, the young officer who assists Pekkala. He was formerly in training to be a chef, and cooks for them.

Two of the characters, the Tsar (from the flashbacks scenes) and Stalin, are real historical characters and I was surprised at their depiction. Based on my very minimal knowledge of Russian history, I thought that they would be depicted in a more negative light. There have been complaints from some reviewers that they are depicted too sympathetically. Myself, had the ending been better executed, I could have easily ignored that issue.

Sam Eastland is a pseudonym used by Paul Watkins, an American author who has been publishing novels since 1988. At a post on the Inspector Pekkala Website Blog, he shares an interview he did for a newspaper in Finland. He answers questions about who he based the main character on. At the time he was finishing up the fifth book in the series, and planning to begin the sixth book.

Because I enjoyed this novel for the most part, and I think the author shows a lot of promise for continuing the series, I do recommend this book. If you like historical mysteries, I think it is worth a try, and certainly it has gotten a lot of positive reviews. I borrowed this book from my husband, and he has the second book in the series. With the ease of availability, I will definitely give the series another try.

For other’s views, see these reviews:
At Reactions to Reading, at Murder by Type, and at Mysteries in Paradise.

6 comments:

  1. Tracy - I know exactly what you mean about endings that don't live up to the promise of a book. But this book really appeals to me. I suppose it's because I I like historical mysteries myself, and this era is a fascinating one. Thanks for the recommendation.

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    1. I will be interested in knowing what you think of the series.

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  2. Interesting. Will keep an eye out for this one. I don't know that much about this time period.

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    1. That is what I like about historical novels. They encourage me to learn more about the period I am reading about.

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  3. Looks interesting added to my shelves.

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    1. I think you would like it. Based on what I have seen on your blog that you have read.

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