THE RUSSIAN WIFE by Barry Maitland (Allen & Unwin)
After a six year absence Barry Maitland returned in 2019 with a new novel, The Promised Land, in his popular series about London detectives David Brock and Kathy Kolla, and now as we head towards the end of 2021 we are gifted with the fourteenth entry in the series, The Russian Wife.
The Russian Wife opens with Brock re-instated as a Detective Chief Inspector following the events of The Promised Land, albeit in the Fraud division, and Kolla leading one of the Metropolitan Police Murder Investigation teams. A chance remark by Brock, sets Kolla on the trail of a possible murderer, but she soon finds herself under investigation for corruption and her career in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Brock becomes embroiled in the dangerous world of international art fraud, when the wife of a prominent art collector is found dead.
This is a clever and engaging crime novel, which once more demonstrates Maitland’s mastery of the detective mystery. The central characters of Brock and Kolla are engaging and flawed, and the secondary characters are well fleshed-out and intriguing. The dual plotlines are well constructed and full of interest, and Maitland produces his typical mid-book twist, which upturns expectations and adds to the mystery. As the book nears the end, the surprises increase and Maitland neatly wraps up the various strands of his plot with a flourish in the closing pages.
As always the plotting is first rate, but a lot of the book’s pleasure comes in seeing how Brock and Kolla have aged and changed. Maitland does a good job in conveying Brock’s unsettledness and uncertainty early in the book, and Kolla continues to grow and mature as a character. There are a lot of poignant reflections in the book, but not enough to derail the plot or slow the story, and Maitland is good at conveying a sense of lost opportunities and paths not taken.
Maitland, a former Professor of Architecture, invests his novel with a good feel for place and uses his professional eye to draw out telling architectural details. His description of an ancient church in the Kentish marshlands is vivid and interesting, and he also brings to life the dark corners of London’s streets. The art forgery information is also enthralling and seamlessly woven into the story.
Some of the police detail lacks the credibility that other authors bring to the genre, but overall The Russian Wife is a very enjoyable read.
Four stars out of five.
The Russian Wife will be released in Australia by Allen & Unwin on 30 November 2021 and on the same day in the United States on Kindle. Release dates for the United Kingdom are not yet available, but it can be purchased from Australian bookstores. The Promised Land has finally been released in the United Kingdom in paperback and is well worth checking out: https://murdermayhemandlongdogs.com/the-promised-land-by-barry-maitland-allen-unwin-a29-99/
Thanks to the publisher and the Canberra Weekly for an advanced copy of the book for review.