Monstrum

Overview

The new Russia, 2015: Nationalist forces have finally defeated the Anarchist rebels, but it is an uneasy peace. Provincial police inspector Constantin Vadim is plucked from backwater Murmansk to head up a murder investigation in the decaying, crime-ridden Red Presnya district of Moscow. His task: to solve a succession of unspeakable crimes committed by a serial killer who has become a terrifying local legend, almost a cult symbol: Monstrum. Vadim unwittingly discovers governmental intrigue and conspiratorial ...
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Overview

The new Russia, 2015: Nationalist forces have finally defeated the Anarchist rebels, but it is an uneasy peace. Provincial police inspector Constantin Vadim is plucked from backwater Murmansk to head up a murder investigation in the decaying, crime-ridden Red Presnya district of Moscow. His task: to solve a succession of unspeakable crimes committed by a serial killer who has become a terrifying local legend, almost a cult symbol: Monstrum. Vadim unwittingly discovers governmental intrigue and conspiratorial deceptions so terrible they threaten to undermine the revamped Russia. And when his past - in the form of his estranged wife, Julia Petrovna, a general in the defeated Anarchist army - collides with his ongoing current hunt for the killer, these two forces threaten to crush the detective and Russia itself.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The author, whose fascination with all things Russian has resulted in histories, television work, and documentaries on the subject, leaps into the realm of fiction in this sinister thriller about a post-civil war serial killer loose in Moscow in the not too distant future. It's as though Crime and Punishment's Raskolnikov came to life and chronicled a nightmare about Jack the Ripper or Ted Bundy running rampant in 21st century Russia -- even as the country struggles to save itself.

—Rick Koster

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The publisher compares James's new thriller to Fatherland and Gorky Park; but even more than those genre classics, this literate, robust novel emphasizes milieu over crime and punishment. The setting is a rigorously detailed and utterly believable Moscow of 2015, where newly arrived police inspector Constantin Vadim, who narrates, is assigned to investigate a series of mutilation slayings of young women. Vadim's pursuit of the killerdubbed the Monstrumtakes a back seat, however, to political intrigue, for the cop has been brought to Moscow from the provinces not for his sleuthing abilities but because he can double, as a lookalike, for Leonid Koba, the strongman who has arisen from Russia's recent civil war. The intrigue thickens when Vadim's ex-wife, an anarchist general on the war's losing side and now a fugitive, seeks his help to escape the country, and it condenses when Vadim learns that she has been involved in an assassination attempt on Koba. Some subsequent plot twists defy credulity, but James (The Fall of the Russian Empire), who in the 1970s wrote TV scripts for Mission Impossible and The Avengers, knows how to build suspense and to cross-stitch a colorful plot. He expertly knots Vadim's hunt for the Monstrum into larger sociopolitical issues. The narrative is consistently engaging, driven by the self-lacerating voice of Vadim, a charismatic womanizer and alcoholic, who unflinchingly appraises his fellow Russians (a power-drunk secret policeman, a crafty whore and a venal priest are among the memorable secondary characters here) and their beloved, ravaged land. 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Monstrum, a first novel about a serial killer in Russia, will receive a monstrous 100,000-copy first printing.
Kirkus Reviews
An effectively moody murder mystery—and more—set in 21st- century Russia, from the versatile James (The House of Janus, 1990, etc.).

It's 2015, and nationalist forces have just bested insurgent anarchists in a three-year struggle for control of a corrupt, enervated Russia. Shortly after the guns fall silent, out-of-favor police inspector Constantine Vadim is dispatched from remote Murmansk to battle-scarred Moscow. Although without experience in homicide, he's detailed to investigate a succession of bloody murders in which a serial killer dubbed "monstrum" kills and mutilates young women. At the behest of the Cheka (KGB redux), the broody detective (still melancholic five years after his divorce from Julia Petrovna, a charismatic commander of rebel troops during the uprising) also works as a double for Russia's authoritarian vice president, Leonid Koba. While Costya pursues his inquiries amidst the turmoil of an anything-goes capital city and a ramshackle government, he's contacted by Julia, on the run from the belligerency's vengeful victors. Eventually, the dogged detective, with the help of district coroner Dr. Natalya Karlova, is able to establish a link between the murders and an illicit traffic in transplantable body organs. He also stumbles on an even greater crime, a cynical plot to rehabilitate Julia (whose lust for power transcends mere ideology) as Minister of Reconciliation. Stripped of all illusions, a desperate Costya takes matters into his own hands in hopes of subjecting the guilty to appropriate punishments and (paradoxically, perhaps) putting his beloved homeland back on the road to a government of laws, not men. At the close, he's back in Murmansk, making a new life for himself, salt-of-the-earth Natalya, and their unborn child.

A bleak but engrossing tale whose impact owes much to the author's skill at conveying the horrific details of a future-shock domain that's neither East nor West but sui generis.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679460602
  • Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/29/1997
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: 2 Cassettes
  • Product dimensions: 4.41 (w) x 7.05 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Donald James is a veteran novelist, a successful writer for television--most recently, he was the scriptwriter of Russia's War, a ten-part PBS series to be broadcast this fall--and a renowned historian whose works include The Penguin Dictionary of the Third Reich and the bestselling The Fall of the Russian Empire. He lives in England.
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Read an Excerpt

Monstrum

By the time of the third murder, it was a word evoked by every shout of alarm, by every blast on a militia whistle, by every woman's scream in a district of Moscow where shouts and screams had never been uncommon. Within a week of the third murder there were the beginnings of a cult: the word appeared as elaborately worked graffiti on concrete walls; young men swaggered the streets with the word emblazoned across the back of their jackets; in the cellar discos, reckless girls wore T-shirts with the Monstrum's swollen hands engulfing their breasts. But on the streets all women are equal. At night they hurry home no longer thinking of footsteps and snatched purses. A new word -- Monstrum -- has entered their vocabulary of terror. Like a rising tide of infected river water, the word washes against the shanty houses of Red Presnya, swilling through the lives of the inhabitants of the dark alleys and ruined tower blocks, leaving a scum of fear. All this was happening in Moscow in the year 2015, the year Russians had begun to think of as the New Dawn.
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2003

    Magnificant

    Even the dutch translation is magnificant. he start is a little bit slow but after about 50 pages, you can't put the book away. You have to read the end. After The fortune teller and Vadim waiting for number four???

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2003

    I want more!

    I accidently discovered this book & thought it was so great that I would love to read the next two that Donald James wrote...The Fortune Teller & Vadim.. These continue the story. For some reason they seem to be impossible to find outside of England or Australia. What a disappointment! He is a wonderful writer!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2002

    An Absolute Must Read!

    If you like suspense, mystery, drama, then this is the book for you. I read this two years ago and still recall it vividly. I suggest it as good reading all the time. The story is so real, you can feel a part of it.

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