Red Star Rising
Review: Charlie Muffin is seconded to the British Embassy in Moscow to investigate when an unidentified body of a man is inexplicably found dead in the garden of the supposedly secure grounds in Red Star Rising, the fourteenth mystery in this series by Brian Freemantle.
Charlie arrives to find the state of the investigation a mess. First, there are jurisdictional issues. The local authorities in Moscow insist the man — whose face had been blown off, his fingertips dissolved with acid — must have been killed outside the embassy and simply moved there, and therefore they are in charge. The embassy staff, and now Charlie, insist the man was killed on the grounds, legally British territory, and not of concern to the Russians. Unfortunately, in the time it took Charlie to get there, the Russians had removed they body and all the evidence, and were processing it themselves, but promised full cooperation with the British. Second, there are security issues. The closed circuit televisions were inoperative the night the body was found and how the body came to be in the garden remains a mystery. Charlie soon learns that, in violation of standard protocol, the embassy staff hired Russian technicians to service the equipment who, not unsurprisingly, took advantage of the opportunity to install state-of-the-art listening devices. And then the Americans show up, complicating matters further. Charlie must piece together the identity of the dead man is, how and why he came to be on the embassy grounds, and who killed him, all the while trying to keep the Russian political machine in the dark.
Certainly much of the thrill in reading Red Star Rising is in following how Charlie outmaneuvers the Russians … and even his own countrymen, many of whom he doesn't necessarily trust. The dialog is crisply written, with Charlie carefully analyzing every statement made to him and which he makes himself, as if every conversation is part of an on-going verbal chess tournament and only one opponent can win each game. The one who wins the most games, wins the prize. Only here, it's not clear what the prize actually is … and that's part of the appeal to the story.
There is a subplot involving Charlie and his wife Natalie, who lives in Moscow with their daughter. They haven't seen each other in five years, Charlie fearing that if Natalie — an FSB agent — is seen with him that she may be arrested, their daughter put in a state orphanage. Instead, they meet secretly, Charlie hoping she'll return with him to London, Natalie unwilling to give up her life in Russia. The storyline is well integrated into the overall plot and not intrusive, still, readers new the series may not appreciate their currently situation or understand how their relationship came to be this way.
Overall, Red Star Rising is a compelling and intelligent spy thriller that, while short on action, is long on intrigue.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Red Star Rising for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Red Star Rising: Moscow, Russia, London, England
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Red Star Rising by Brian Freemantle — A Charlie Muffin Mystery
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: August 2010
List Price: $25.99
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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