DISPATCH FROM A COLD COUNTRY by Robert Cullen

DISPATCH FROM A COLD COUNTRY

KIRKUS REVIEW

 The third Colin Burke international thriller (Soviet Sources, 1990; Cover Story, 1994) has our intrepid reporter taking one of those dangerous Hitchcock travelogues, in this case to the troubled St. Petersburg of the new Russia. The MacGuffin is a Leonardo painting called Madonna Litta, presently owned by the great Hermitage art museum but about to be sold secretly, with many payoffs, to a Colombian drug lord for $400 million. If the nefarious deed were made public, it could rock the government. Jennifer Morelli, Burke's young freelance protÇgÇ, who has film and facts on the potential scandal, calls him from Frankfurt, planning to meet him at the Washington Tribune. But Jennifer's been followed from Russia by the Hermitage's creepy Ivan Bykov, who likes to combine pleasure (sexual sadism) with business (he kills her). Burke discovers her mutilated body, feels personally responsible, takes time off from the Tribune, and flies to St. Petersburg to find out who killed Jennifer and why. (Her murder would seem to be connected to the recent death of the Hermitage's director.) Along the way, the satisfyingly complex storylines include (1) our not-so-innocent Burke abroad; (2) Desdemona McCoy, young, attractive, black, feisty, and a field operator for the agency in Langley, who returns to St. Petersburg to monitor that sale; (3) Andrusha Karpov, in Italy to find Florentine ocher for Nadyezhda Petrovna, who's painted a brilliant copy of the Madonna Litta; (4) art broker Charles Hamilton Merrill, who's arranging for drug lord Rafael Santera Calderon to buy the Leonardo; and (5) Russian mafia boss Slema Chavchavadze. Before the end, things heat up between Desdemona and Burke as they and their trio of allies try to survive a lot of cruel, greedy, mean men. Cullen's latest is good enough--aside from the occasional clichÇ and the seemingly obligatory genre romance--that one wishes to call it a fine novel instead of an effective page-turner. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-449-91258-2
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996




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