Renko finds himself on the receiving end of some police brutality at the protest, but is  persuaded to take a closer look at the investigation into Tatiana's death. The Cynical Reader might find this a little hard to accept, but a combination of Renko’s background and the fact that he’s carrying a bullet in his skull after a near-death experience in a past investigation means he’s not particularly concerned about the consequences of a little inquisitiveness.

Add Arkady's neighbour and interim lover Anya Rudenko’s involvement in the demonstration, the cemetery’s refusal to inter Tatiana’s body which couldn't be located at any of the city's morgues and then was allegedly found and cremated before any investigation could begin and you’ve got a combination of circumstances that are almost guaranteed to pique a predilection towards inquisitiveness.

Then there’s the notebook and the tapes.

As Arkady starts sniffing around, assisted by his loyal alcoholic comrade, Sgt. Victor Orlov, the investigation leads from Moscow to the Baltic port of Kaliningrad, a geopolitical oddity populated by hundreds of thousands of ethnic Russians.

The city was originally Konigsberg, part of eastern Prussia wedged between Poland and Lithuania taken by the Red Army in the dying days of World War II and held by the Soviet regime as a closed strategic region. Stalin forced the entire population to relocate and repopulated the city with Russians, but no one admits they are from Kaliningrad. 

They call themselves Koenigs instead. 

In the post-Soviet era Kaliningrad remains an important port, is the centre of the amber industry, boasts the highest crime rate in Russia and, interestingly, happened to be Grisha Grigorenko’s power base.

Kaliningrad also gives us another body, that of cycling fanatic interpreter Joseph Bonnafos, whose death on  a deserted Kaliningrad beach at the hands of a psychopathic butcher who stalks the beach in a van with a smiling plastic pig on its roof is described in the Prologue. He’s the author of the mysterious notebook, kept in a cryptic form of shorthand by a linguist who loved word games. 

And the dead interpreter’s notebook seems to link the other two deaths, with possible details of all sorts of dodgy dealings in the interactions between the government, criminal gangs and foreign powers. All that’s needed is someone who can crack the translator's personal and seemingly indecipherable code.


© Ian Hughes 2012