By: Brent Ghelfi
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Publication Date: May 2011
Reviewed by: Mary Lignor
Review Date: April 2011
The Burning Lake is the fourth novel by this author featuring Alexei Volkovoy "Volk," a former Russian Army Colonel who does all the secret work for a Kremlin official by the name of "The General." Volk is ready to take on just about any kind of assignment including the Kremlin, the Russian Mob, Chechen rebels and anyone in between.
In this thriller, it seems that twenty-one journalists have been killed in Russia since Putin took over the reins of power. And Ilya Jakobs, sort of an informer, has gotten in touch with Volk to impart some information about another dead newspaper reporter. Sadly, the victim is Katarina Mironova, known as Kato. Volk had met Kato some time before when she was covering the Chechen War and he was there with the Russian Special Forces and they became close. She gave him a notebook with a story in it for her editor and asked if he would deliver it as she was being watched. Each went about their own lives when the war was over and she became an investigative reporter for Epilogue, a newspaper that would publish the truth. She was in the town of Metlino, which is near the site of a radiation explosion. It was one of the villages that was contaminated by radiation fallout when a nuclear plant called Mayak blew up. She was in the process of investigating this huge problem when she was waylayed by people who do not want the world to know that there are people dying of radiation poisoning in this area and the Russian government is trying to keep it quiet. She is captured by these men and shot to death.
After this we meet Grayson Stone in Las Vegas, who was once in the American military but was kicked out of the Army for disobeying a direct order but, was happy about this as he started his own company "Greystone Securities," investigating all sorts of murder and mayhem and also taking part in some pretty ugly things. He works for the CIA, FBI, NSA and just about anyone who will pay him big money to do the things that they won't do. He and his company have some meaning in this story as Volk saved Stone's life in Afghanistan in 2002.
Back to Volk in Russia, as he is the main character in this story. He is so emotional when hearing about Kato's death that he vows to avenge her. He goes to Mayak, the site of the nuclear explosion that happened in 1968 to see where Kato died. His investigation also takes him to Las Vegas, where he meets up with Stone again. He learns through some of his contacts that Stone and a French assassin are the keepers of secrets about a tragic accident at sea and an unholy alliance between Russian, American and French politicians regarding processing nuclear waste. America and France do not want these secrets to come out so someone is out to get Volk and Stone. Volk is now the hunted rather than the hunter as he goes across the world to track down what happened to Kato and the story that she was going to write to uncover all this trickery of these countries.
This book contained some really tough scenes of torture and pain but, the writing is so good that you will get past it. Things happen rapidly and you are sent from place to place so quickly that the horrible things that happen to people are very fleeting. The Russian underground is certainly not a bed of roses, and you get to hear some of the very brutal ways they treat their citizens and the problems with nuclear reprossessing and waste that flows into a lake so, even though the outside air is chilling, the lake is hot and flames are seen coming out of it and flying into the sky. It's sure not anyplace that you would want to visit.
Quill Says: Extremely clever characters and an atmosphere of gloomy, depressing Moscow to some of the run-down areas of Las Vegas tend to make this novel compelling. A very complicated plot.