Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Archive 17 by Sam Eastland

First Line: In a cave, deep underground, lit by the greasy flame of a kerosene lamp, the man knelt in a puddle, his empty hands held out as if to catch drops of water which fell through the cracks in the ceiling.

It's 1939, and Stalin desperately needs money to jumpstart the Soviet war machine in its upcoming fight against Nazi Germany. When certain information comes to light, he sends Inspector Pekkala back to Borodok, the notorious Gulag where he was imprisoned for so many years. There Pekkala will have to face his past as the Tsar's investigator as well as his horrific years in the Gulag as he tries to infiltrate a gang of convicts who are still loyal to the Tsar. Why? Because Stalin believes they know the location of the legendary missing gold of Nicholas II-- and Stalin needs it to fight the Nazis.

Sam Eastland's Inspector Pekkala novels comprise one of my favorite historical mystery series. The scenes of Tsarist and Stalinist Russia are vivid and draw me straight into the story. In the case of Archive 17, I was also drawn into the life of a Siberian Gulag, and I'm still thawing out and feeling hungry and filthy.

It's fascinating to watch Pekkala remember pieces of his past as Nicholas II's chief investigator as he tries to infiltrate the group of convicts who are still loyal to the Tsar, and those in charge at the Borodok have their own motivations that he must deal with as well. Perhaps my favorite scene in the entire book involves Pekkala's partner, Major Kirov, and the fate of an archivist and all his documents in Moscow; the possibilities linger on in my mind.

Pekkala is a bit like the Clint Eastwood we've become familiar with throughout his film career: a big, soft-spoken man who doesn't say much but observes all. A man who's learned that the only person upon whom he can rely is himself. A highly principled man who sometimes finds those principles at war with the simple need to survive. This is the third time Pekkala has tried to stay alive while keeping true to himself. Having bosses like Nicholas II and Josef Stalin, it's far from an easy task, and with historic detail, a tightly woven plot, and some heart-stopping action, Sam Eastland makes fascinating reading of Pekkala's struggles.

Archive 17 by Sam Eastland
ISBN: 9780345525734
Bantam Books © 2012
Hardcover, 272 pages

Historical Mystery, #3 Inspector Pekkala mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen 


  1. Cathy - I will admit to being a true sucker for a good historical series. And that feeling of being authentically there without being overloaded with detail? Priceless. Glad you enjoyed this.

    1. That's one reason why I'm a reader and not a writer-- I think I'd go overboard on the historical detail and lose sight of the story!

  2. Kathy, Just a little note that has nothing to do with this book. I just finished reading two books I found on your blog--HELL WITH THE LID BLOWN OFF and HELL HOLE. I'd read other books from both authors before, but hadn't stumbled on these or made the effort to search them out. Thanks!

    I like your blog because you are honest about books I almost always find your A recommendations right on.

    1. Thank you so much for letting me know this, Joe. Some days I just don't feel much like typing something up for this blog, but comments and emails like this always give me incentive to keep on talking books!


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