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"You know why I like you better when you fight? Because you like it so much. Because it helps you live when you make other people suffer and die." These are the words of the only woman Alekei "Volk" Volkovoy loves, Valya.
Both Volk and Valya are scarred emotionally beyond redemption, one by Chechnya's war and prison camps after losing those battles, and the other by similar torturous memories. As the mystery progresses, Volk reminisces across a panoramic short film of Communist and European involvement in Russian history from the torture-ridden days of Stalin and Hitler to the present. So they thrive on the coldness that remained after all decent thoughts and feelings were forever stymied, and now they live on the adrenalin-pumping action and intrigue of the underworld. What's the prize? Literally, right now it's a precious piece of art that will provoke the highest bidders to war with each other.
Many die and many live as if they were about to die, for that is the shocking reality of their every moment. Each is a moment's breath away from deception even by those considered most loyal and no physical cruelty is beyond the pale to attain the wealthy goal each seeks. Yes, this time it's the famed painting Leda by Da Vinci, an erotic and consummately invaluable but lost painting. Volk travels across Eastern Europe to New York and back again as Maxim, the General, Peter Vyugin the Russian foreign minister, Yelena Posnova who is much more than Peter's wife, and other vivid characters that spin through these fast-paced pages.
The goal might seem easy, but the loyalties and betrayals in this gripping thriller are never predictable and shape new awareness and consequent reaction from all who seek to win the prize, no matter how many corpses are left in the trail!
Feisty, amazing criminal world drama!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on June 22, 2007