Stalin's Private Eye
The Emerald Eye, once Tsar Nicholas II's private investigator, is a man of near-mythic status, trusted by the Russian people to always speak the truth and only punish the guilty, qualities not widely found in representatives of a government better known for deceit and deception. After the Russian Revolution, the Eye (real name Pekkala) is sent to a Siberian labor camp with the other surviving members of the Tsar's government. In 1929, Joseph Stalin, the autocratic ruler of newly communist Russia, frees Pekkala from prison and gives him his old job back, working now for Stalin instead of the Tsar.
Boldly imaginative, beautifully written, breathtakingly suspenseful and very, very dark. Fans of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther should try these.
It takes an audacious imagination to create a character who can stand up to the sweeping events and larger-than-life personalities of early twentieth century Russian history. Pekkala can survive anything: war, wilderness, torture, prison. Pekkala can wield any weapon and win any fight, usually by drawing his gun first. Pekkala speaks his mind to the powerful, whether Tsar or dictator. Pekkala is also a highly trained detective, thanks to apprenticeships in investigation and forensics. There's something elemental about him. He is more force than man, the embodiment of a single-minded will to survive and an unbreakable talent for uncovering the truth.
Eastland is an exceptionally accomplished writer and this is an exceptional series. These books are so engrossing that I never want to put them down. I particularly enjoy his descriptions, which are vivid and memorable (and short). Really enhances the reading experience.
Start with Eye of the Red Tsar (#1) and Shadow Pass (#2) to get Pekkala's backstory which will enhance your enjoyment of later books.
Below, a list of the Inspector Pekkala Mystery Books in chronological order.
Rescued from a labor camp and appointed as Joseph Stalin's personal investigator, Pekkala is sent to identify the people who executed the Tsar and his family. Shadow Pass (2011, Inspector Pekkala Mystery Books #2, APA: The Red Coffin) 1939. The Soviet Union is preparing for war with Germany. They are pinning their hopes on the development of a massive new tank, the T-34. When someone murders the scientist in charge of the project, Inspector Pekkala is sent to investigate. Archive 17 (2012, Inspector Pekkala Mystery Books #3, APA: Siberian Red) 1939. Stalin sends Pekkala on a desperate search for the missing Romanov gold. The hunt begins with an undercover investigation in Siberia, at Pekalla's old labor camp. One of the most extraordinary treasures in the Tsar's palace was a room made completely of amber. When the German Army occupied the palace, it packed up the amber room and sent it to Germany. Along the way, the room was lost. Stalin sends Pekkala behind enemy lines to find it and return it to Russia. Rumors of Pekkala's death have been greatly exaggerated. Pekkala is in Ukraine, hiding with the partisans who have survived long years of German occupation and are now readying for war with the Red Army.