The Matryoshka Murders

Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman
Calliope Press (2015)
ISBN 9780984779970
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (12/15)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘The Matryoshka Murders’ by Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman on Blogcritics.

“The Matryoshka Murders” by Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman begins with Kate, who is at the flat of an official translator, Marsha, recording a tape of what is called in Russia, an “illegal meeting” of women. The women describe how hard it is to live and survive in Russia, and criticize current Russian leaders.

Kate, in conjunction with her boss Dom, of Titan Films, and the company’s investor Steve, arrive in Russia in January 1991 to take part in Leningrad’s Second International Documentary Festival with their film ‘Revolution.’ Kate soon finds that the USSR is in severe economic and political crisis, there is a lot of crime, and almost no food on store shelves. During the audiotape at Marsha’s house, Sveta, age 17, confides she is afraid of being killed for her participation. Kate offers to help Sveta, and is swept up in a series of frightening events, beginning with their abduction by Kolya, a drunken cab driver. Kate is robbed of the earrings her lover Gilly had given her, and left to die in the bitter cold in a cemetery on the outskirts of Leningrad. She stumbles to a nearby inn, believing that Sveta has also escaped.

After the owners of the inn help Kate recover from the Russian winter elements with a warm bath and a hot meal, they guide her back to the Hotel Leningrad. Kate meets with Dom and Steve and tells them her odyssey. Her head spans into thousands of thoughts as she tries to understand what happened to her. She remembers that when she first arrived, she inadvertently videotaped an officer with a scarred face talking with a baby-faced civilian in a gray designer suit in the hotel bar. Since then a red-haired soldier seems to be following her. Kate throws herself into gathering more footage for her NYC course in guerrilla filmmaking, but more troubles start to occur. After an invasion into her hotel room while she sleeps, and a near miss by a speeding convoy truck at the Palace of Pavlovsk, Kate understands that she is not a victim of Leningrad’s rising crime wave, but that there is a real plot to kill her and confiscate her videotapes. Back home in her NYC apartment, Kate thinks that all the worst had passed, but danger overseas follows her to her doorstep, and she realizes that nothing is as it seems.

Although I feel the story started a little bit slow, the pace did pick up, building momentum, which created a chain of events leading to an unexpected climax. I liked the characters and settings created by the authors, as they felt real and genuine. I also found myself hooked by the plot, making it difficult to put the book down. Overall, “The Matryoshka Murders” by Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman is a well-written and very descriptive novel about the people, places, and events in Leningrad in 1991, with a hidden underlying plot that is disclosed towards the end. I definitely recommend it to all mystery lovers!

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