Black Knight in Red Square
Built in the twilight of the Tsarist state, Moscow's Metropole Hotel is a poignant reminder of the decadence of the last regime. But today its corridors are musty, its rooms are dank, and now its restaurant is the scene of a quadruple murder. Four men - one American, one Japanese, and two citizens of Mother Russia - share a meal of smoked salmon, caviar, and two bottles of vodka. In the morning, all are found dead, blood on their lips and faces contorted in pain.
To keep the killings under wraps, the Kremlin hands the investigation over to famously discreet police investigator Porfiry Rostnikov. A terrorist is targeting foreigners to embarrass the Soviet state, and the killer will happily sacrifice any Russian who gets in the way.
About the Author.
Stuart M. Kaminsky (1934-2009) was one of the most prolific crime fiction authors of the last four decades. Born in Chicago, he spent his youth immersed in pulp fiction and classic cinema - two forms of popular entertainment which he would make his life's work. After college and a stint in the army, Kaminsky wrote film criticism and biographies of the great actors and directors of Hollywood's Golden Age. In 1977, when a planned biography of Charlton Heston fell through, Kaminsky wrote Bullet for a Star, his first Toby Peters novel, beginning a fiction career that would last the rest of his life.
Kaminsky penned twenty-four novels starring the detective, whom he described as 'the anti-Philip Marlowe.' In 1981's Death of a Dissident, Kaminsky debuted Moscow police detective Porfiry Rostnikov, whose stories were praised for their accurate depiction of Soviet life. His other two series starred Abe Lieberman, a hardened Chicago cop, and Lew Fonseca, a process server. In all, Kaminsky wrote more than sixty novels. He died in St. Louis in 2009.
'Impressive. . . . Kaminsky has staked a claim to a piece of the Russian turf. . . . He captures the Russian scene and characters in rich detail.' - The Washington Post Book World.
'Quite simply the best cop to come out of the Soviet Union since Martin Cruz Smith's Arkady Renko in Gorky Park.' - The San Francisco Examiner.
'Stuart Kaminsky's Rostnikov novels are among the best mysteries being written.' - The San Diego Union-Tribune.
'For anyone with a taste for old Hollywood B-movie mysteries, Edgar winner Kaminsky offers plenty of nostalgic fun . . . The tone is light, the pace brisk, the tongue firmly in cheek.' - Publishers Weekly.
'Marvelously entertaining.' - Newsday.
'Makes the totally wacky possible . . . Peters [is] an unblemished delight.' - Washington Post.
'The Ed McBain of Mother Russia.' - Kirkus Reviews.
Black Knight in Red Square
WARREN HARDING AUBREY THOUGHT HE was feeling the effects of a trio of double vodkas on the rocks. Actually, he was dying.
His once hard belly ached slightly as he got on the elevator of the Metropole Hotel and told the young woman he wanted vosem. When she pressed the button marked eight, he knew his minimal Russian had not failed him this time.
The girl on the stool was named Maria Nevanskaya. She had been riding up and down for almost fourteen hours a day five days a week for three of her twenty-five years. Normally it would take the appearance of a babbling ax murderer or of the general secretary himself to draw her attention. But this was not a normal week. It was the first week of the Moscow Film Festival, and the hotel was filled with foreigners. The lobby elevator dispatcher, Verochek, had abused Maria about her lack of courtesy to the guests. She guessed, quite correctly, that Verochek had himself been abused by Karlenko, the Metropole's Communist Party supervisor. So as the elevator slowly rose to the sound of the weary restaurant orchestra playing "I Want to Hold Your Hand," Maria turned to her drunken passenger and asked, in what she thought was French, if he was ill.
Aubrey was lost in thoughts of 1954, when he had begun the metamorphosis from Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent in Korea to hired typist who would cover anything anywhere in the world for a standard fee and all he could drink, which was an impressive amount. The French word mal got through to him, though, and he grinned at the woman and shook his head. He wanted to say something to her, but the taste of blood in his mouth and her apparent indifference stopped him. His hand went to his mouth and came away dry.
As the elevator door slid open on the eighth floor, Aubrey took a step forward feeling as if he were wading in knee-deep water. He almost collided with the desk of the dezhurnaya , the floor woman who sat watching him. Her hand automatically went up to protect her key box from his potential drunken onslaught. Each floor in each hotel in Moscow, with the exception of the gargantuan Rossyia, had an old dezhurnaya to guard the keys, the morals, and the sanctity of the establishment and to serve, when necessary, as the eyes and ears of the KGB. As Aubrey knew, these old women could shift from motherly sympathy to matronly scorn without apparent reason. None could speak any language but Russian. This dezhurnaya, Vera Olganova, eyed Aubrey suspiciously, and with little of the Party's careful courtesy to the foreign visitor, found his key and reluctantly handed it over. Aubrey clutched the key, took a step, began to fall, and tried to steady himself by grabbing the nearest object on the woman's desk, which happened to be a small framed portrait of Lenin.
Vera Olganova snatched the portrait from him with a grunt, and Aubrey had to hold the edge of the desk to keep from falling. She decided that the foreigner had intentionally and politically reached for the picture, which she now clutched to her cascading bosom, saving it from desecration at his capitalistic hands. He merited a report to the proper authorities even if he was drunk.
"Sorry," Aubrey said, hoping he wouldn't throw up.
She placed Lenin safely on the far end of the desk, facing away from the disrespectful Westerner.
Aubrey, praying that he would make it to his bathroom, took a dozen steps, inserted the key into the lock of room 808, turned it, and pushed open the door. With a great effort, he managed to raise his hand and flick on the lights. He was unaware that he'd left the door open behind him and that he had dropped the key.
The nausea subsided slightly as he found himself eye to eye with a painting of a thin man with his bushy head held high and a stern expression on his face. Aubrey put out both hands and leaned against the wall, trying to outstare this