My rating: 5 of 5 stars
From the opening paragraph of William Ryan’s second novel, The Darkening Field, readers will feel the tension that builds throughout the novel until a climactic ending. Set in 1937 Russia, lead detective Alexei Korolev must navigate his way through a minefield of clues that could solve a murder mystery but also spark political revolution.
It is clear that Ryan is a master not only of plotting a well crafted mystery but also at describing settings and locations so smoothly that the reader will find themselves absent-mindedly rubbing their fingers to keep warm in the novel’s cold Russian nights. His hero, Korolev, has a distinct and clear mind that speaks plainly to the reader amid the precarious situation he finds himself in; even if he doesn’t dare voice his thoughts out loud to other characters.
Darken Field is a straight murder and mystery novel with only enough personal life information about our characters to establish their motives but not enough to get sidetracked from the main plot. I wish I had read Ryan’s first novel, The Holy Thief, before this latest only because I’m looking forward to reading more about Korolev’s life during this potentially explosive time in Russian history.
Certainly, this novel can be read purely for its entertainment value and readers would be rewarded for their efforts. However, there is so much more that readers can be intrigued about from this novel. For example, as a detective Korolev relies on a forensic team. My naïve mind couldn’t grasp what forensic evidence could be found in 1937. I discovered my error as forensic science has been practiced since the age of Caesar. By 1932 Harvard University had a chair of legal medicine. In addition, Ryan’s work will spark interest in post World War I political affairs in Europe. I hope readers take a few moments to review their history and grasp all that they can be inspired to learn from this amazing work of fiction.