Ghelfi (Volk’s Shadow, 2008, etc.) keeps the Cold War hot with the intrigues of various Russian and U.S. agents, double agents and a slate of characters who are seldom what they seem.
Many questions dog Russian Special Forces agent Alexei Volkovoy, or “Volk,” in his third adventure. What is the meaning of the Venona Cable, a decrypted World War II missive he’s acquired that details Churchill and Roosevelt’s discussion about a second front against Germany? Why has Everett Walker, a filmmaker from Hollywood’s golden age, turned up murdered in the Moscow warehouse where Volk produces porn films, steals identities and works for the “General,” an underworld boss? And did Volk’s father Stepan betray Russia by defecting in a plane passing over the Arctic in 1974? Volk gets a chance to ponder the answers when he’s slammed into a Moscow prison, beaten and interrogated on charges of murdering Walker. Volk’s bargaining chip is his obsession with his father’s loyalties. Moscow police and the General also want to know what Stepan was up to in the United States, so they send Volk sprinting after the answer. In a high-octane junket from Albuquerque to Los Angeles, the indefatigable Volk learns that his father was involved in developing an aerial surveillance camera that could see through cloud cover. The special camera may link Stepan to Walker, a cinematographer who produced pro-Soviet documentaries. Walker’s film company was a subsidiary of Lorelei Industries, an aerospace company headed by Gordon Reese, who, like many of those Volk encounters in the States, is as violent and treacherous as anyone working Russia’s underground. Hacking through a thicket of reversals and betrayals, Volk fixes on the overriding question of his father’s nature.
Swift, sharp character descriptions and atmospheric evocations of gray, melancholy Moscow and the seedier streets of Los Angeles add style and color to a delectably complicated plot.