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Volk's Game    by Brent Ghelfi order for
Volk's Game
by Brent Ghelfi
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Brent Ghelfi is a new name on the scene with a first book sure to make its mark. His protagonist, Alexei Volkovoy, heavily plies the black market in Moscow, while he is also a covert agent for the Russian military - when he is not bathing the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg with blood ... other people's blood, that is.

His young white-haired girlfriend Valya is not adverse to spilling blood either, as long as it is not Volk's. She protects him at every turn. How much protection he needs is a moot point as he is very adept in that category, right down to the knife concealed in his prosthetic foot.

The rumor of a lost DaVinci, Leda with the Swan, sends everyone scurrying to retrieve this gem so as to unload it illegitimately to the highest bidder. It turns out that an even more valuable painting is possibly hidden with Leda. This sends Volk and Valya traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg and on to New York City.

The milieu of Moscow brings today's city to life as well as its inhabitants. Volk is a many-faceted character ruthless but with a soft spot for the truly unfortunate. Valva is a trifle wispy, a little hard to hold onto. But maybe she is meant to convey that sense. The General and Maxim both seem the epitome of evil and greed. What stands out most in this riveting new book is the cruelty and brutality that abounds in the world.

The plot of Volk's Game is tangled and intertwined, and requires concentration to keep various unsavory - and the few savory - characters straight in the reader's mind. But it's well worth the effort.

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