Back in the 1980s, if you wanted hardboiled action with a Russian flavor, Martin Cruz Smith’s novels featuring Arkady Renko (Gorky Park, Polar Star) were the only reliable source. More recently, other writers have begun to explore similar territory, mainly through the eyes of Soviet expatriates living in the United States. In 1995, Reggie Nadelson debuted her successful Artie Cohen series with Red Mercury Blues. And now, David Duffy has introduced PI Turbo Vlost, a child of the Gulags who, after serving in the KGB, eventually settled in New York City.
On the surface, Last to Fold tells the story of a kidnapping of a young girl by ruthless thugs. But, like Ross MacDonald’s tales of Lew Archer, it also explores the effect of history on the present, as Vlost’s past comes back to haunt him in modern-day New York. Besides taking the requisite beatings any good fictional PI is expected to sustain on a typical case, Vlost also must endure the opening of emotional wounds he thought had long since healed, wounds that had been inflicted on his psyche literally from the day he was born. Duffy expertly exploits his character’s complicated backstory to tell a gritty, twisted tale of mayhem and murder, producing a notably well-written, involving debut that explores the bonds and bounds of love and loyalty.