STUART KAMINSKY – Death of a Russian Priest. Porfiry Rostnikov #8. Fawcett, hardcover, 1992. Ballantine, paperback, 1993.

   Kaminsky is another author with whom I have an ambivalent relationship. I very much like his books featuring Porfiry Rostnikov and Abe Lieberman, and thoroughly dislike those with Toby Peters. I was a little apprehensive as to what effect the breakup of the USSR would have on his Russian series, but he seems not to have broken stride.

   The latest book takes place after the abortive coup against Gorbachev, with Boris Yeltsin in uneasy power. The government agency for which Rostnikov works has been given more power, but bureaucratic enemies still exist on every side, very much including the revamped KGB.

   Against this background, Rostnikov and his merry band — Emil Karpo, Sasha Tkach, and a new member, Elena Timofeyeva — are working through two unconnected cases. Rostnikov and Karpo are dispatched to the village of Arkush to deal with the murder of an outspoken and charismatic priest, while Tkach and Elena try to trace the missing daughter of a Syrian diplomat. The missing girl’s lover, a Jew, is murdered just as the book begins.

   I have no real idea, of course, as to how accurate Kaminsky has been over the course of the series in depicting the lives and milieu of his Russian characters. They have felt real; and certainly the present book in its picture of everyday life does not contradict what one has read in Time, or seen on network television. If Rostnikov and company are not real, they are Russia’s loss, not ours.

   Kaminsky is an entertaining writer, and the Russia he depicts is a fascinating one. I recommend the entire series, perhaps the first few a trifle more.

— Reprinted from Fireman, Fireman, Save My Books #4, November 1992.