Monday, July 11, 2022

Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express: Stuart M. Kaminsky

Murder on the Trans-Siberian Express is a fictional ride on the Trans-Siberian Express. It is part of a series by Stuart M. Kaminsky, set in Russia under Communist rule (to begin with) and later in Russia, following the breakup of the USSR. The books were written between 1981 and 2009. 

This is the 14th book in the series and the series protagonist, Chief Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov, works in the Office of Special Investigation, reporting to its director, Igor Yaklovev, the Yak. He has a group of detectives who work under him; they usually work on multiple cases in each book. In this one, the Yak sends Rostnikov to recover a valuable historic document that is in transit on the Trans-Siberian Express. He does not share with Rostnikov what is in the package. Rostnikov has to identify the person who will pay for the package, and intercept both the package and the payment when the exchange takes place.

In one of the secondary cases, the kidnapping of a heavy metal rocker is investigated, and given a high priority because the victim's father is an important figure in the government. The other subplot focuses on attacks on men at various subway stations while people wait for their trains. 

This series is intriguing because of the picture of life in Russia during this interesting period. There were books written before and after the break up of the Soviet Union, and the series reflects the changes in Russia over those years, including specifically how this police team is affected.

The mystery plots are well done, although I personally get more involved in the people and how they deal with the problems in their lives (whether they are related to the crime or personal) than the crimes and solutions. The characterization is excellent.

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.

One thing I really liked about this specific entry in the series is the way that the prologue and the epilogue tie together. So often prologues to mystery books appear to me to be useless, not informative. And I learned a lot about the building of the Trans-Siberian railroad while reading this book.

This series is best read in order; the characters grow and their lives change from book to book. However, I think this book can work as a standalone because background on the continuing characters is provided in a way that doesn't interfere with the flow of the story.


Publisher:   Mysterious Press, 2001
Length:       277 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Porfiry Rostnikov, #14
Setting:       Russia
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       On my TBR pile since 2007.


pattinase (abbott) said...

May I compliment you on what a great job you do on both summarizing the book and bringing your thoughts on it into it. You should write for Kirkus or one of the magazines. It is not an easy task.

Cath said...

You find some very interesting, obscure writers to read and write about, Tracy. Not heard of this author at all but the book sounds fascinating.

TracyK said...

Thank you for the kind words, Patti. It was easier to write this review than most because I really do get caught up in the characters and remember their stories from book to book.

TracyK said...

Cath, Kaminsky is one of my top authors. I did not discover him until 2005 and I was at a point in my reading where I read the first seven of his books in that one year. Same for Jill McGown, and Jane Haddam, and Caroline Graham and a few others.

Kaminsky has written three other series, one of them a historical fiction series set in Hollywood where the private detective investigates crimes related to specific celebrities. Or at least they started out in Hollywood at a movie studio. But I have only read one or two from each series, except for this one.

Neeru said...

Long been on my wishlist, Tracy. But I am wary of starting long series.

CLM said...

I remember he was a film professor and always wonder if that added a visual element to his books - as opposed to some recent books that seem to obviously written in hopes of a movie deal, if that makes sense! My father liked this series.

TracyK said...

I know what you mean, Neeru. And often when I do start a new series nowadays, I only end up reading one or two of them.

The early books in this series are very good... from what I remember when I read them in 2005. There is one set in Cuba (Hard Currency) that is especially good, and this one of course, because of the train setting.

TracyK said...

Constance, I have read plenty of thrillers that felt like they were looking for a movie deal. David McCallum wrote one thriller that I thought would make a great film, but I don't know if that was what he was aiming for.

We have two DVDs of films that have extra features featuring Stuart Kaminsky.

I am glad to hear that your father liked this series. Every now and then I see reviews on Goodreads by readers who are big fans of the series.