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Shadow Pass    by Sam Eastland order for
Shadow Pass
by Sam Eastland
Order:  USA  Can
Bantam, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Once he answered only to the Tsar and handled special assignments the Russian ruler would trust to no one else. Inspector Pekkala's badge of office, the Emerald Eye, would open any door and gave him carte blanche to do virtually anything in the Tsar's name.

Captured during the Revolution, Pekkala was sent to Siberia where he remained until he was summoned back to Moscow to serve in a similar capacity for the country's new leader, Joseph Stalin.

In his role as Special Investigator for the Communist leader, Pekkala has already been called upon to catch the killers of the Romanovs and locate the royal child rumored to be alive. That assignment was chronicled in the series' debut, Eye of the Red Tsar.

Now Stalin has called upon Pekkala and his assistant Major Kirov to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Colonel Rolan Nagorski, a brilliant engineer who was developing the Soviet Union's newest weapon, a monster tank called the T-34.

Rumors have Stalin worried that the plans for this awesome machine of war may be given to the Germans and, as Europe teeters on the brink of war, this is the last thing Hitler needs in his arsenal.

Dubbed the Red Coffin, the tank is nearing completion and ready to go into mass production when Nagorski's crushed body is discovered out in the test area beneath the tracks of one of the armored behemoths.

Was it an accident or something more sinister? A bullet fragment in the colonel's head suggests it was murder. With the country moving closer and closer to a confrontation with Germany, Pekkala and Kirov must not only find the killer but also figure out if the plans for the tank have already been slipped across the border.

What follows is a riveting suspense yarn that is not only rich in historical detail but also so meticulously plotted that you'll not be sure who the antagonist is in this story.

Using a series of flashbacks to the time Pekkala worked for the Tsar, the narrative links his former life with the present. The deeper into the story the reader gets, the more he becomes aware of the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Pekkala's relationship with both the Tsar and Stalin is as much a part of the novel as the way he conducts his investigation.

The closing pages of this case also set up the next novel in this excellent new series. As much as he would rather never return to the place where he was incarcerated, it looks like Pekkala will be revisiting frigid Siberia.

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