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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Review - Rasputin's Shadow

I have not read Raymond Khoury before, but the book blurb and subject of Rasputin made this irresistible.  Tess Chaykin is not an active part of the novel this time as she had apparently been in prior books.  Read on to see how this part modern thriller, part historical novel measures up.

Author: Raymond Khoury

Copyright: April 2013 (Grand Central Publishing) 400 pgs

Series: 4th in Sean Reilly Thriller series

Sensuality: Violence, some graphic violence

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense/Thriller

Main Characters: Sean Reilly, FBI Agent

Setting: Modern day, New York

Obtained Through: publisher for an honest review

The novel opens with a scene in 1916. Somewhere in the Ural mountains of western Russia, in a mining pit where an experiment results in the miners savaging murdering one another.  The carnage is stopped when infamous Grigory Rasputin and his "shadow," a monk/scientist named Misha, blow the mine and miners with explosives.  The next chapter is in modern day New York with FBI agent Sean Rilley beginning the investigation of a Russian diplomat, who seems to have been pushed from the window of a New York City apartment owned by an old Russian physics teacher named Leo Sokolov.  Sokolov has dissapeared, and his wife Daphne goes missing immediately after leaving her job.  It becomes clear somebody is seeking the old teacher and the hunter kills with terrifying efficiency anybody in his way, including agents. 

The story has occasional chapters reverting back to Rasputin's story from a journal written by Misha.  It tells of an early device that was used on the mine with non-specific but dangerous powers.  This same device, perfected by modern technology, is what is at stake in this novel.  Imagine such a device in the hands of terrorists - or military hands!  Leo Sokolov knows the secret to this catastrophic weapon and he is now in hiding trying to save his wife who is stuck in the middle.  Sean Reily and the FBI and trying to understand what is going on and stop anymore deaths, but they are lacking key pieces to the puzzle.  Leo decides to seek help from an old student who now heads up the local Korean mob.  Things are about to go from bad to worse.

There is an ongoing storyline from the previous novel, The Devil's Elixir, that is not explained involving Sean's son and a man named Corrigan. I looked it up to make sense of it and apparently Reed Corrigan, a CIA operative, brainwashed Reilly’s son.  Just a little FYI.  That was confusing and maddening so I am sparing you.

Grigory Rasputin is depicted as a master manipulator with little supernatural, but mostly con-artist abilities (think evil mentalist).  Misha is a great example of how Rasputin manipulates and uses people.  This was my first book with FBI agent Sean Reilly and he is well portrayed as flawed, and human. Leo Sokolov is very likable and even tragic.  Jonny, Leo's old student now mobster, risks so much to help out his old teacher while still being a reprobate, the Russian FSB agent Larisa Tchoumitcheva is a wild card through most of the story which adds to the uncertainty of what is happening, Russian hitman Koschey is a classic detached assassin.

The setting is mostly New York, with a few chapters in early 1900s Russia. Both are portrayed well in their own right.  The beginning was a bit slow with setting up the story. But about a fourth of the way in, the ground-work has been sufficiently laid out and it gets interesting.  The plot itself revolves around technology that isn't explained in-depth in the story, but the author's notes at the end answered remaining questions.  It raises some scary and thought provoking scenarios for our modern world.  The climax, or showdown, arrived quickly, and was over as quickly in-spite of all the lead up.

This was my first Raymond Khoury and I did enjoy it.  The historical aspects always intrigue me.  I do have to say the story had good characters that I cared about, but the continuing storyline from the previous book was frustrating without a clear explanation. There were plenty of exciting twists and turns. There was good suspense built up and the climax was logical even though it seemed too quickly resolved.

Rating: Good - A fun read incorporating a historical angle with minor flaws.

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