More swashbuckling adventures in revolutionary Russia for Charlie Doig.
The opening pages of this talky sequel rapidly regurgitate the plot of its predecessor (White Blood, 2007). Part-Scottish, part Russian Charlie was an award-winning naturalist when tragedy struck in 1917. At his family home in provincial Smolensk, many of his aristocratic family members were killed by evil Bolsheviks. Worst of all, Charlie’s beautiful bride of just seven days, his cousin Elizaveta, was gang-raped and razor-slashed. She begged Charlie to shoot her; he complied. Narrator Charlie’s mission now is to hunt down and kill the ringleader of this act of class warfare, a Bolshie named Glebov. The third most powerful man in Russia after Lenin and Trotsky, Glebov is also a comic-strip villain—nothing necessarily wrong with that in a no-frills thriller, but what we expect as a tradeoff for lack of characterization is plenty of excitement, and we don’t get it. Tipped off that Glebov has gone East to handle the counterrevolutionary White Russians and supervise the Tsar’s murder, Charlie buys a locomotive in St. Petersburg and sets off with a motley crew, among them his new love interest. While he enjoys plowing hot-to-trot Xenia, Charlie is not the stud he used to be; his wife’s death weighs heavily on his widower’s conscience. As his train moves slowly across Russia, he learns of a huge stash of Tsarist gold in the river town of Kazan. Reds, Whites and Czechs are all circling the stash, and where there’s gold, there’s Glebov, so Charlie has the chance to kill two birds with one stone. The long-delayed showdown with his nemesis comes in a Kazan monastery as Charlie’s cohorts secure the gold on barges.
Even at the climax, when Fleming finally provides some real action, there are so many competing adversaries in the melee that it’s not very satisfying.