Black Wolf by G.D Abson
A young woman is found dead on the outskirts of St Petersburg on a freezing January morning. There are no signs of injury, and heavy snowfall has buried all trace of an attacker.
Captain Natalya Ivanova’s investigation quickly links the victim to the Decembrists, an anti-Putin dissident group whose acts of civil disobedience have caught the eye of the authorities. And Natalya soon realises she is not the only one interested in the case, as government security services wade in and shut down her investigation almost before it has begun.
Before long, state media are spreading smear stories about the dead woman, and Natalya suspects the authorities have something to hide. When a second rebel activist goes missing, she is forced to go undercover to expose the truth. But the stakes are higher than ever before. Not only could her pursuit of the murderer destroy her career, but her family ties to one of the victims threaten to tear her personal life apart.
A captivating, pacy thriller that plunges right into the beating heart of Putin’s Russia.
Character Profile Natalya Ivanova ~
The hero of my series, Senior Investigator Natalya Ivanova, lives in Vladimir Putin’s birthplace of Saint Petersburg (actually there is some doubt that Putin was even born a Russian citizen, but that’s another story). After spending her teenage years in Germany, Natalya has become an idealist, a European liberal who refuses to adapt to morally grey Russia; something that isn’t a problem for her pragmatic husband Mikhail, a more senior officer in the Criminal Investigations Directorate.
In MOTHERLAND, the first in the series, a disillusioned Natalya is responding to domestic violence calls, knowing the offenders will only be prosecuted in the most serious cases. When a Swedish student goes missing, she’s offered a chance to run a major investigation. The theme of MOTHERLAND, though, is of corruption. Webster’s dictionary describes it as powerful people engaging in illegal or dishonest behaviour, but there’s an older sense too, of corruption as an agent of decay. And while Natalya wants to be an idealist fighting the corrupt elite of the Russian establishment, the decay leaves no one untouched, not even an investigator and her family.
When a young woman’s half-frozen body is found by a road in BLACK WOLF, and the woman turns out to be a member of the Decembrists – a secretive group of anti-government activists – Natalya’s idealism goes into hyperdrive. She sees a killer at work despatching people she has more in common with than her own colleagues. After being removed form the case, she refuses to stop. As for the black wolf of the title, that’s Natalya. In this exchange with her superior, Lieutenant Colonel Dostoynov, he forces her to confront the darker origins of her idealism.
Dostoynov chuckled. ‘Let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard of a black wolf, Ivanova?’
‘It’s a mutation caused by wolves mating with dogs in the distant past. Black wolves are outcasts, destined to be neither one thing nor the other. The wolves in their pack attack them for being different and they are shot for their trouble when seeking human company. That’s you, Ivanova. The Decembrists don’t trust you, and neither do we.’
‘The interesting point though, Ivanova, is that despite outward appearances there is little difference between a black wolf and a grey – merely a few genes for the colour of the pelt. As for you, there is no record of you attending anti-government demonstrations or joining political groups. You rail against corruption, while married to an officer under investigation, and you live in an apartment beyond both of your means. Do you know what I think?’
‘There you are again with your little quips. I’ll tell you though, because it’s clear to anyone who looks at your file. Your rebellion started when your parents divorced. You were a resentful teenager who listened to punk long after it was fashionable. You hated your mother for bringing you back to Piter, and your father and sister for letting her do it. You think you’re fighting the Russian state, but you’re fighting your own family.’
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