Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Blood and Rubles: Stuart M. Kaminsky

The Inspector Rostnikov series began in 1981 when Russia was still part of the USSR; the 16th and  last book in the series was published in 2009. I am now at book 10 in the series. The protagonist is a metropolitan police detective in Moscow. Per the description on the dust jacket:
Crime in post-communist Russia has only gotten worse: rubles are scarce; blood, plentiful. In the eyes of Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov and his metropolitan police team, newfound democracy has unleashed the desperation that pushes people over the edge, and has emboldened those already on the path to hell. ...A trio of nasty cases confirms their worst fears.
The major case involves a Mafia shoot-out at a cafe; several innocent bystanders are killed or injured, and one of the dead is someone important to Inspector Emil Karpo. An American FBI agent, a Black man who can speak Russian, is assigned to the team to observe and help with this case. The second assignment involves three young boys who are robbing and beating people in their neighborhood, and another member of the team works on the disappearance of valuable artifacts.

Inspector Rostnikov is the center of each novel. He has a leg injury suffered during military service, which causes him pain and inconvenience in his job. He reads Ed McBain novels. His wife is Jewish, which has also caused problems with his job. His grown son is fighting in Afghanistan when the series begins.

There are several police colleagues on Rostnikov's team who have recurring roles. Their relationships play a part in each novel.


Inspector Emil Karpo, known as "the Vampire," is cold and forbidding, almost robotic in his behavior. He has always supported Communism and still does, even after the change in government in Russia after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. As the series progresses, he  becomes more human and thus a more interesting character.

This series is intriguing because of the picture of life in Russia during this interesting period. Rostnikov's strongest characteristic is his support of his staff in the face of the continuing changes in Russia and his ability to get the best out of them. He recognizes their differences and their gifts.

For me, the criminal plots are less important than the interactions of all the characters, yet each subplot is interesting, if sometimes depressing.

This series is best read in order; the characters grow and their lives change from book to book.

Stuart M. Kaminsky (September 29, 1934 – October 9, 2009) was an American mystery writer and film professor. He was a very prolific writer, and he is known for four long-running series of mystery novels. Two of the series feature police detectives, the Inspector Rostnikov series and the Abe Lieberman series. The other two series are about private detectives; the Toby Peters series is set in 1940's Hollywood and the Lew Fonescu series is set in Florida. The Toby Peters series is the longest and those mysteries are humorous; the other series are more serious in tone, sometimes dark. Kaminsky received the 1989 Edgar Award for Best Novel for A Cold Red Sunrise, the fifth novel in the Inspector Rostnikov series.

Many of Stuart Kaminsky's books are available through MysteriousPress.com/Open Road in e-book format or in trade paperback.

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Publisher:  Fawcett Columbine, 1996
Length:      257 pages
Format:     Hardcover
Series:      Inspector Rostnikov, #10
Setting:     Moscow
Genre:      Police Procedural
Source:     I purchased my copy

13 comments:

  1. I'm glad you chose from this series, Tracy. I'm more familiar with Kaminsky's Toby Peters series, and it's nice to be reminded that he did so much other work, too. I agree with you that sometimes, character interactions matter at least as much as anything else, and I'm glad you thought they worked here.

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    1. I have read books from the Toby Peters series, Margot, and the first book in the Abe Lieberman series. But I plan to read more from all of the series.

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  2. Just dropped in to say Happy Thanksgiving. Hope you have a wonderful day.

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    1. Thanks, Rick, we are having a mostly relaxing day. I hope the same for you.

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  3. I think I would enjoy this series but my library just has a few of them. I might have to resort to the internet.

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    1. The series is definitely worth trying, Katrina. I hope you have some luck finding the books.

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  4. I wonder how this compares with Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko series? I love those, but had not heard of this one. I'm soon to find out!

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    1. I've just downloaded #1 in the series!

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    2. I am glad to hear that you are going to try this series, Mathew. I want to know what you think, even if you are underwhelmed. It is hard to compare the two authors and it has been a while since I have read the Renko series... I need to remedy that. But I think this one has more humor (subtle of course) but still a depressing subject.

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  5. I have some of these on this series on the shelves, more for hoarding purposes than actual reading - maybe one day!

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    1. Some of them are excellent, Col, and some are slower, but I enjoy them all for the picture of Russia at the time. Maybe some day.

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  6. Keep meaning to read something by this author....

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    1. I have a lot of his books, [all of the Russian series, many of the Toby Peters books, and two or three from the other two series] so I should be reading more of them, Moira. This is my favorite series that he wrote, so far. But the series set in 1940's Hollywood is liked by many. I do need to spend more time with both of the later series he wrote too.

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