The Man Who Walked Like a Bear
Porfiry and Sarah Rostnikov have been in love since the end of World War II, growing old together as the Soviet Union lurches towards modernity. Sarah is recovering from a brain operation, her police inspector husband at her side, when a bearlike man staggers into her hospital room. Hulking, naked, and insensible, he is about to leap out the window when Rostnikov talks him off the ledge. But before the orderlies take him away, the giant whispers a secret to the investigator. Someone has been stealing from the factory where he works.
As he puzzles over the colossal madman's clue, Rostnikov must also focus on his colleagues in the Moscow police, as their team contends with a sudden jump in crime. Rebels are planting bombs, teenagers are plotting assassinations, and the KGB lurks in every shadow. Surviving all this without Sarah by his side will be a challenge for the limping policeman, but he has long proven adept at talking down the Russian bear.
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.
'Kaminsky stands out as a subtle historian, unobtrusively but entertainingly weaving into the story itself what people were wearing, eating, driving, and listening to on the radio. A page-turning romp.' Booklist.
'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.
The Man Who Walked Like a Bear
THE WOMAN SAT looking straight ahead, her coat still buttoned, her mouth firmly set. She was somewhere in her late forties and, Sasha was sure, wanted to be thought of as a stylish modern person. He discerned this because of the woman's short haircut, her use of makeup, and the stylish if somewhat worn imitation leather coat she wore.
She was also a challenge. She had been sitting silently in the small interrogation room of Petrovka for more than fifteen minutes and had said nothing after informing the uniformed officer at the entrance that she had something of importance to say to a policeman. Petrovka consists of two ten-story L-shaped buildings on Petrovka Street. It is modern, imposing, utilitarian, and very busy. It is a place most Muscovites avoid. Often citizens will come through the doors determined to be heard and seen, only to change their mind at the sight of the humorless young officers carrying dark automatic weapons. But this woman, though afraid, had persisted.
Sasha Tkach had the unfortunate luck to be seated at his desk opposite Zelach when the woman was brought up. Sasha was usually successful with reluctant witnesses. He was handsome if a bit thin and looked much younger than his twenty-nine years. His hair fell over his eyes, and he had an engaging habit of throwing his head back to clear his vision. He also had a rather large space between his upper teeth, which seemed to bring out the maternal response in most women, but this woman, whose identification confirmed that her name was Elena Vostoyavek, did not respond to Sasha's charms and, truth be told, Sasha had other things on his mind, particularly the fight he had had that very morning with his wife, Maya, over whether Sasha's mother, Lydia, would be moving with them and the baby to the new apartment. It had been an unusually difficult fight because Lydia, deaf as she was, had been in the next room and might hear.
Sasha did not need this silent challenge before him. He needed a simple day of desk work, distracting, absorbing desk work without human contact. He had a pile of reports to write. He longed to write those reports, to lose himself in the routine of those reports, and so he decided to charm the reluctant woman.
"Can I get you some tea?" Sasha said, leaning close to her and smiling.
"This must be difficult for you," he went on, speaking softly, intimately. "Whatever it is you have to tell us must be important, and we appreciate your sense of responsibility. Too many citizens walk away from their responsibility."
The woman did not look at him. He pulled up a chair and sat directly in her line of vision. Inspector Rostnikov had told him there would be moments like this when they moved to special assignments in the MVD. They-Rostnikov, Tkach, and Emil Karpo-had handled important cases, murders, grand theft when they were with the procurator general's office, which under Article 164 of the Constitution of the USSR is empowered to exercise "supreme power of supervision over the strict and uniform observance of laws by all ministries, state committees and departments, enterprises, institutions and organizations, executive-administrative bodies of local Soviets of People's Deputies, collective farms, cooperatives, and other public organizations, officials, and citizens." The procurator general's office was a place of great prestige and, as long as its mission did not conflict with the KGB, great power. But Rostnikov had, once too often, incurred the wrath of the KGB and had been demoted, assigned to the staff of Colonel Snitkonoy, whose duties were largely ceremonial.
Tkach and Karpo, already under suspicion because of their loyalty to Rostnikov, had been given the opportunity to join him. The opportunity had no alternatives, and Tkach had accepted it gladly, though at moments like this he longed for a good murder.
"You're married?" Tkach said. "Yo