The Burning Lake
An Alexei Volkovoy Mystery by Brent Ghelfi
Review: When the body of a crusading journalist is found in a remote region of Russia, an area decimated by a nuclear disaster years before, undercover operative Alexei Volkovoy, known as "Volk" to his colleagues, is assigned to learn more in The Burning Lake, the fourth mystery in this series by Brent Ghelfi.
From the corner of my eye I see another orange flame pop from the ash and sand from the middle of the lakebed, flicker there for a moment in some exotic dance, then disappear in the twilight sky.
The dead woman is Katarina "Kato" Mironova, her hard-hitting exposÚs over the years having attracted worldwide attention. While her murder isn't mourned by the authorities — they're glad to be free of her stories — knowledge is power and The General revels in it. He doesn't believe his government ordered her killed, but can't be certain it didn't, and instructs Volk to discover everything he can about the circumstances surrounding her death. But what The General doesn't know is that Volk was once her lover and, more importantly, was one of the unnamed sources for her stories. This mission puts him personally at risk, but it's an assignment he cannot turn down. Separately, the US government is puzzled by the torture deaths of two Russians in the Arizona desert, who were apparently — and inexplicably — acting as coyotes, men escorting illegal aliens across the border from Mexico. Toward that end, they employ Grayson Stone, an ex-military operative, now head of his own private security company, to find out what he can, knowing full well that his methods of obtaining information are not sanctioned and officially condemned by the agency that hires him.
Though subtitled a "Volk Novel", The Burning Lake is as much about Stone as it is Volk. Volk's narrative is told in first person, Stone's in third person, and much of the suspense generated from their respective storylines is anticipating what will happen when they inevitably meet. Too, the mystery here is both whodunit and whydunit, but from different perspectives. Volk can guess the why behind Kato's murder but doesn't know the who; Stone suspects the who behind the coyotes' deaths, but has no idea about the why. Both have secrets to hide and both know that the wrong question to the wrong person could result in their own deaths. To be sure, the plot is complicated in places and, like Volk and Stone, the reader may not be entirely sure what's going on all the time. Toward this end, though, the author neatly brings everything full circle in a cleverly devised conclusion. The Burning Lake is a fine novel of suspense … and more than a little bit alarming at how potentially true this topical, yet clearly fictional, storyline could be.
Acknowledgment: Maryglenn McCombs Book Publicity provided a trade paperback edition of The Burning Lake for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in The Burning Lake: Russia, Las Vegas, Nevada, Tijuana, Mexico
— ♦ —
The Burning Lake by Brent Ghelfi — An Alexei Volkovoy Mystery
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: May 2011
List Price: $24.95
— ♦ —
Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
Mysterious Reviews is a Division of
The Hidden Staircase Mystery Books
and a Business Unit of the
Omnimystery Family of Mystery Websites