Higgins passion for history, espionage and science fiction all shine through.
A thousand miles east of Mirgorod, the great capital city of the Vlast, deep in the ancient forest, lies the most recent fallen angel, its vast stone form half-buried and fused into the rock by the violence of impact. As its dark energy leeches into the crash site, so a circle of death expands around it, slowly - inexorably - killing everything it touches. Alone in the wilderness, it reaches out with its mind.
The endless forest and its antique folklore are no concern to Inspector Vissarion Lom, summoned to the capital in order to catch a terrorist - and ordered to report directly to the head of the secret police. A totalitarian state, worn down by an endless war, must be seen to crush home-grown terrorism with an iron fist. But Lom discovers Mirgorod to be more corrupted than he imagined: a murky world of secret police and revolutionaries, cabaret clubs and doomed artists. Lom has been chosen because he is an outsider, not involved in the struggle for power within the party. And because of the sliver of angel stone implanted in his head at the children's home.
Lom's investigation reveals a conspiracy that extends to the top echelons of the party. When he exposes who -or rather what - is the controlling intelligence behind this, it is time for the detective to change sides. Pursued by rogue police agents and their man-crushing mudjhik, Lom must protect Kantor's step-daughter Maroussia, who has discovered what is hidden beneath police headquarters: a secret so ancient that only the forest remembers. As they try to escape the capital and flee down river, elemental forces are gathering. The earth itself is on the move.
I am a fan of both fantasy literature and thrillers. So this novel, with its thriller and fantasy elements was clearly written for readers like me in mind.
On the front cover there is a quote from Richard Morgan comparing this to Ian Fleming and in a lot of respects he has got that right. The early scenes, with their short punchy sentences, vivid descriptions and pulsing action sequences are very reminiscent of Fleming. Add this to a sci fi mystery, blending an alternate totalitarian state with an ancient mythical world and you have a potent mix.
The characters are interesting and fully developed, each with a strong back story and motivations. Lom has to investigate the enigmatic terrorist Josef Kantor as well as unlocking the mysteries of his own past.
Higgins passion for history, espionage and science fiction all shine through. The chapters are short and entertaining, but it does end rather abruptly. I found the first half of the book the strongest with Higgins’ descriptions of a police state, with its mean streets and aura of fear and uncertainty palpable. The final half was weaker and seemed a little rushed. Overall though this was a highly enjoyable and creative slice of fiction.
Published 2013 by Gollancz
Review by Daniel Cann
8.5/10 from 1 reviews
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