Sunday, August 3, 2008

Read: "Volk's Shadow" by Brent Ghelfi

Read: Volk's Shadow by Brent Ghelfi, 2008, 9780805082555.

Very, very good. Ghelfi was at the Mystery One bookstore in Milwaukee and I lucked out seeing apromo in the newspaper. I bought a copy of the book when I went there. Ghelfi spoke a lot about modern Russia and crime, business, graft, Chechnya, corruption and bureaucracy. It was neat to hear him talk about the topics because they all fit directly into the plot. It was not neat to hear the beer guzzling nitwit in the small audience who wanted to jabber on about his views and experiences in Russia.

The novel starts with The General sending Volk to a high rise bombed only an hour or so ago by terrorists who are holed up inside with hostages. Volk goes inside by himself - yeah, not very believable - and is caught in an explosion right when the terrorists catch him in the building. Volk survives.

The bombing was at an oil company's offices and Ghelfi ties that into a tightly woven plot about oil wealth. The Russians are fighting among themselves over oil money and trying to make alliances with Europe, America, and China. With main oil pipelines running through or next to Chechnya all the sides have to deal with competing Chechen bands.

Along for the ride is a digital video showing a mass murder by the Russian Army, a child abduction in Moscow of a twelve year old girl whose kidnapper takes her South to the mountains, and the murder of two soldiers who were buying a long missing Faberge egg for sale by Chechens.

Don't forget Volk's experiences in the Second Chechen War and his capture. While captured he was repeatedly tortured and lost his foot when his captors ground it in the elevation gears of a 155 millimeter howitzer. Of course, the leader of the band that caught Volk is involved in everything.

There is a lot going on but Ghelfi puts it all together well and the the mystery aspect of the plot is well done. There are crime lords, porn, whores, faces cut off victims, Volk killing lots of people, and a Sig. Speaking of the Sig, whats with the ten round mags? Is he carrying a 220 or 225 or 239? Those are single stacks but all the other models must have, at minimum, twelve round mags.

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