Well, this book is no Gorky Park
, but it's not bad. The main character, Pekkala, is a guy of substance, and in this first book in the Inspector Pekkala series
his backstory is nicely established, and his strengths and vulnerabilities are highlighted. Pekkala winds up being a sympathetic character, but his career decision at the end of this book was interesting, and I thought somewhat surprising given what we had seen of his character up to that point. That choice could very well set up all kinds of trouble and conflict (i.e., rich plotlines) for Pekkala in future books, so this is a series I will continue.
I'm not a big reader of historical fiction, let alone historical fiction of the mystery genre, but I liked this one. I have some sort of affinity for books set in Russia, especially for ones set in the U.S.S.R., and I liked that this book took place right at the pivot point between Tsarist Russia and Communist Russia.
What I did have some trouble with, though, is that I found it rather difficult to believe, given who Pekkala was supposed to be, that he would have been left alive when Tsar Nicholas was overthrown. I had an even more difficult time believing that he wouldn't have been manipulated and controlled more heavily by the Soviets, much as Arkady is in the Arkady Renko series
. Finally, I really found it fairly unacceptable that someone of Pekkala's training would have fallen so willingly, and so easily into the trap that he fell into. He had the finest training, knew that caution was always to be called for, and yet he fell for a trick that was as obvious as the nose on his face. That didn't add up for me. In fact, the whole denouement sequence in the book was just a little too formulaic for my taste, and it didn't sit well with the feel of the rest of the book.
Nevertheless, I liked Eye of the Red Tsar overall, and I did look forward to the moments when I'd be able to sit down and read it. Hopefully the next book in the series
will be just a bit tighter, with Pekkala struggling more within and against the Soviet machine.