The Burning Lake
Poisoned Pen, May 3 2011, $24.95
On a wintry night in Moscow, espionage agent Alexei "Volk" Volkovoy meets with gulag survivor Ilya Jacobs. The latter informs Volk that someone assassinated reporter Katarina “Kato” Mironova in a remote village in the Urals. Three students were also murdered.
Although a reporter’s life is perilous in Putin’s Russia, Volk is indifferent to that aspect of Kato’s life. Instead he feels her killing is personal as he and Kato were lovers during the second Chechen conflict. He resolves to uncover who killed her and why. The agent quickly learns Kato was digging into a story about a reservoir in the mountains containing holding liquid radioactive waste that exploded in 1958. The area became contaminated with radioactive waste. Before long the trail leads to Las Vegas.
The latest Volk dark Russian thriller (see Volk’s Shadow and The Venona Cable) is a great timely investigative tale. The story line is the usual frantic pace of a Volk tale as he connects the Stalin evil past and the dark Putin present. Fans will anticipate a showdown with the Frenchman, who is setting up the kill of Volk as Brent Ghelfi writes a tense thriller that captures the essence of 1950s and current Russia in this powerful entry.