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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Who is the Beast in the Red Forest? Several Characters Fit the Bill!

The Beast in the Red Forest: An Inspector Pekkala Novel of SuspenseThe Beast in the Red Forest: An Inspector Pekkala Novel of Suspense by Sam Eastland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Usually really love the tales of Inspector Pekkala but found this one difficult to follow. After the Revolution and the rise of Stalin and the onset of WW II life in Russia was incredibly chaotic and this book reflects that. There were Czechs trying to get across the country to Vladivostok so they could get to their homeland without crossing Germany or Poland etc. although they did not play a big role in this story. There were all kinds of partisans--some supportive of the ruling Red Party, some trying to overthrow it--but none working together but rather fighting among themselves. There were the members of various sectors of the Red Army and Security services and there were invading German armies. Trying to keep all the factions straight at any given moment was confusing. By the time the middle of the book was reached things were finally making sense. Especially the memos scattered throughout the book dealing with an American and his family.

It seems there were Americans who left the US in an effort to escape the unemployment and hardships of the Depression. Some of them took their families and moved to the Soviet Union where they obtained jobs in manufacturing plants there. This particular man went to work for Ford and he and his family were provided with housing as part of his salary. At some point, he was arrested for unknown reasons and his family evicted from the company housing. The memos were from him to the American Embassy, from the American Embassy to the Soviet Gov't, from his wife to the Americans etc . These missives appeared randomly throughout the book and seemingly had no relationship to the story, other than the fact that Pekkala at some point was directed by Stalin to investigate and make his findings and recommendations to Stalin as soon as possible. This all took place before Pekkala disappeared two years prior.

Now, the main concern of this story is that Pekkala HAS been missing from Moscow for two years and he has not been in touch with either his boss, the bipolar madman, Stalin or with his devoted assistant Kirov, who misses him and wishes he were there to meet the girl Kirov is falling for, among other reasons. Stalin decides to send Kirov out to find Pekkala among the partisans in the Northern forest regions. What Kirov does not realize is that, once more, Stalin has decided to kill the Emerald Eye.

Off Kirov goes to the war torn area of destroyed villages and infighting partisans, where a Russian commissar in a new uniform emblazoned with the red stars of the Soviet may or may not survive. Once all the factions are sorted out the story of these men is, as usual, quite exciting and convoluted. Not the best of the Pekkala series so far, but still worth making the effort to stay til the surprising end.

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