Revolution Day, by Blair Denholm

Eight stars

After recently discovering the work of Blair Denholm, I have not been able to get enough. Having devoured his Australian police procedural series, I turned to this standalone, with rumours that it is actually a series debut. A gritty procedural inside Soviet-era Russia, the story exemplifies the hold communism has over its people in the waning days of the ideology’s grip during the Cold War. It’s only a short time before the 70th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution and the country is preparing for major celebrations. Captain Viktor Voloshin, working for Moscow’s Militsiya Police, has been called to the scene of a grisly murder. An African student at a local university has been found murdered. Voloshin and his team must not only find out what’s been going on, but also try to quell riots to what could be a repeat of a similar crime 24 years earlier. Working through leads and clues, Voloshin has a few potential persons of interest, but will need to lock it down before spooking anyone. Time is running out, as this needs to be solved and shelved before the big celebration, as pressure mounts. Denholm shows just how fabulous a writer he is with this piece, taking the. reader well behind the Iron Curtain!

In late October 1987, plans are being finalized for the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Bolshevik Revolution. Russia is abuzz, with Moscow sure to be the centre of worldwide attention before long. All the while, Captain Viktor Voloshin of the Moscow Militsiya Police is called out to a grisly scene. A man, soon identified as an African student at a local university, has been found hanging, his genitalia missing. As if this were a sign of some sort, Voloshin and his team begin investigating.

Early on, they cannot help but remember a similar case when another student of African descent was found in 1963, leaving some to wonder if this is a repeat offence to denote a similar struggle,. Voloshin probes deeper, only to discover that there are a few students who had issue with the young Nigerian. While the case is running up against the clock of the Revolution Day celebrations, Voloshin runs into numerous other hurdles, including someone who has taken the body away.

With a few suspects on Voloshin’s radar, one in particular is proving harder to find than the others. He may hold the clue to everything, but has been able to stay one step ahead of the investigation. With time running out and pressures mounting, Voloshin will have to risk it all to bring justice to a man who had only scholastic ties to Russia and has made a point of stirring up trouble. Denholm does a masterful job at taking the reader deep into Moscow’s Soviet underbelly in this procedural that screams for a series.

While this is not the first novel of Blair Denholm’s that I’ve read, it was supposed to be. Through a series of gaffes, I was not able to get my hands on the ARC for this book, after it was recommended to me by another stellar writer. Still, I knew I would return to find it and am pleased that I have. While I thoroughly enjoyed another of Denholm’s series, this book was much more complex and highly entertaining. It left me feeling as though I were on the streets of Moscow as well, trying to find a killer while the world waited for communist celebrations to occur. Anyone who has read any of Denholm’s work ought to give this a try, as it will blow your mind. For those who have not heard of the author or tried any of his writing, this is the place to start. However, be prepared to read for long stretches and be amazed!

Captain Viktor Voloshin offers much as the protagonist in this piece. His personal and professional lives literally cross over one another, making it all the more impactful. He is a hard-working police detective who wants nothing more than to make his way through each day, but he cannot shake the issues that his work has on the relationship he is seeking to create with his young daughter. Voloshin tries to balance things, foiling horribly, but that is also much like Denholm’s other protagonist from the Jack Lisbon series. There is a lot more to Voloshin that has yet to be revealed, leaving me to hope that this was not simply a standalone novel.

Blair Denholm is a master at his craft and has proven it yet again. While I enjoyed the Jack Lisbon novels, this was something deeper and even better. Pulling the reader into the heart of Moscow during the Soviet-era, the narrative exemplify just how dire things were. The story grows from there, with strong characters and a plausible plot to keep the reader engaged. Adding some foreign flavouring, the story takes many twists throughout until all comes crashing together against the backdrop of Russia’s largest celebration to date. Should more come of this book in the form of a series, I will be first in line to read them, as Blair Denholm has intrigued me once again!

Kudos, Mr. Denholm, for another winner. I hope others take note and see what I have discovered. Stellar work worthy of much praise.