A young woman is found dead on the outskirts of St Petersburg on a freezing January morning. There are no signs of injury, and heavy snowfall has buried all trace of an attacker.
Captain Natalya Ivanova’s investigation quickly links the victim to the Decembrists, an anti-Putin dissident group whose acts of civil disobedience have caught the eye of the authorities. And Natalya soon realises she is not the only one interested in the case, as government security services wade in and shut down her investigation almost before it has begun.
Before long, state media are spreading smear stories about the dead woman, and Natalya suspects the authorities have something to hide. When a second rebel activist goes missing, she is forced to go undercover to expose the truth. But the stakes are higher than ever before. Not only could her pursuit of the murderer destroy her career, but her family ties to one of the victims threaten to tear her personal life apart.
A captivating, pacy thriller that plunges right into the beating heart of Putin’s Russia.
‘Natalya Ivanova does for St Petersburg what Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko did for Soviet-era Moscow. . . taut, fast-moving and compellingly believable.’ TOM CALLAGHAN, author of A KILLING WINTER
‘One of my favorite procedurals with a female lead set overseas was the Saudi trilogy by Zoe Ferraris. If the next two are as unique and satisfying as this, Abson’s place beside Ferraris will be well earned.’ MenReadingBooks.com
‘Scandinavian noir takes a detour through Russia in this first in a new series featuring an idealistic policewoman surrounded by compromised officials and fellow policemen. . . Gritty, dark, fast-paced, and satisfying. Sno-Isle Libraries
GD Abson has cultivated contacts in the St Petersburg police force in order to write this novel and it shows – though he wears his learning lightly and it never feels crow-barred in. This gripping, fascinating and unusual read never feels like a lecture – it makes you think deeply about a wide range of topical issues whilst keeping you absolutely wrapped in its narrative and it is definitely one of Abson’s strengths as a writer that we never feel as if his research has merely found its way into a novel.
Having enjoyed Motherland so much, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Black Wolf as I loved his writing style and pacy narrative. I have always wanted to travel to beautiful St Petersburg and I loved literally following in Natalya Ivanova’s footsteps in trying to solve this fascinating case.
I hate spoilers, so I don’t want to dwell too long on the plot of Black Wolf – suffice to say that the skilful way that Abson weaves ingredients of this thriller into a convincing depiction of Putin’s Russia is superbly done and remains convincing throughout. I know at times it can feel like the fictional world is saturated with crime and thriller novels but this is a pleasing departure for me and I zipped through it over a sunny weekend, lost in its twists and turns and desperate to reach the heart of the mystery.
I loved the way that this novel wove many threads together – a convincing detective story, a consideration of modern espionage and its impact on society, an examination of the nature of protest and the impact it can have on our lives in a much wider way than we might have anticipated – and I also enjoyed the fantastically realised setting of the novel that definitely made me resolve to read more texts set abroad this year and try to expose myself to novels set in other cultures and countries on a more regular basis.
Dissidents and their travails isn’t a topic that I’m normally drawn to but his novel never allows you to forget is that that this actually happen all the time Although this is a novel, the events that you are reading about have definitely happened to many people, many times and I think that Abson balances this fine tissue of truth and fiction perfectly. No one reading this book could possibly ignore the fact that this is not just a fictional crisis and it’s been a hard book to follow as I find myself continuously thinking back to it and thinking about the way that we express ourselves in a 21st century post-truth world where alliances are ever more complex than they appear.
Black Wolf is definitely one of those novels that stays with you long after closing its final page and one that I will definitely be recommending to my friends – it packs a powerful emotional punch; educates just as much as it entertains and makes you wish that you could step into this intriguing world for yourself. If you enjoy an immersive and intelligent read that will ask you to think about your own attitudes and examine the way that you think about modern politics and challenge your preconceptions then you will love this book as much as I did. I can’t wait to see what G.D Abson does next…
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Writer On The Shelf
G.D. ABSON works as a freelance business analyst and lives in the South West of England. He has cultivated contacts in the St Petersburg police force in order to write this novel, and has more Natalya Ivanova crime novels planned.