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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pekkala On the Trail of Tsarist Gold -Archive 17

Archive 17 (Inspector Pekkala #3)Archive 17 by Sam Eastland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sam Eastland's Book 3 of the Pekkala Series. Once the Emerald Eye, the closest of Tzar Nicolai's Secret Agents, Inspector Pekkala now serves in the same capacity for Stalin. He had been sent to a Gulag in Siberia after the fall of the Romanovs but, in time, Stalin came to realize that the man's talents were wasted and that, if convinced, Pekkala could be useful to him.

In the first two books the Tzarist period was covered and the horrific imprisonment period was, as well. Still, with the flashbacks Pekkala experiences as he meets people from his past and revisits places, too, it really isn't necessary to have read them. Eastland has a rare ability among writers of series, he is able to fill in what has gone before without regurgitating the specifics of the prior books. It saves the reader of the series from rereading those but also brings the new reader up to date without his having to go back to them, if there is no desire to do so.

In this one, a convict has been murdered in Borodok, the Gulag in which Pekkala had been held captive. Stalin is interested in who has committed the murder, since the victim may have been killed by others in the Gulag who know the whereabouts of gold the Tzar had hidden before his demise. Russia is now on the verge of bankruptcy and Stalin would dearly love to recover it. To this end, Pekkala is sent back to Borodok disguised as a new prisoner. He is subjected to the same misery he had suffered during his original transport to Borodok and, once there, though at the behest of Stalin and protected by him, is once more at the mercy of the same superintendent who had banished him into the forests around Borodok as an isolated tree counter.

The descriptions of the Gulag and its prisoners are intense and the tension Pekkala experiences as he tries to investigate the murder while keeping his identity and mission secret among brutal guards, a spiteful Superintendent and suspicious men, who make up the remnants of the Tzar's gold moving and hiding squad keep the reader engrossed until the last sled ride across the taiga.

It is surely time to move on to the next installment of Pekkala's life, serving a man whose moods change faster than the weather and are just as unpredictable--in favor one minute, on a hit list the next. It will also be interesting to see how Pekkala and his protégé, Sgt Kirov, relate to each other now that they almost lost the friendship that has developed between them. WILL Pekkala show more patience, WILL Kirov be more attentive?

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