‘A Revol Rossel thriller‘
– A Traitor’s Heart
[ About the Book ]
Winter 1952. Leningrad’s icy streets are haunted by a murderer. Koshchei, named after a sinister figure from Slavic folklore, is an invisible killer who cuts out the tongue of his victims and replaces it with a scroll of paper containing a few lines of what seems to be Italian verse.
Three thousand kilometres away in a labour colony above the Arctic Circle, threatened by the Thieves who rule the camp, former militia lieutenant Revol Rossel is close to death, until he is saved by a man he hates: Major Nikitin, the man who once cut off the former virtuoso violinist’s fingers.
As the two men hunt Koshchei down they uncover more riddles, including one centred on the ruins of Hitler’s bunker, the Fuhrer’s own copy of a Renaissance manual for tyrants, and a secret code that leads them to a weapon of unimaginable power coveted by the scheming plotters of Stalin’s Kremlin.
Discovering that the mystery and the murderer are inextricably linked, Rossel and Nikitin must catch Koshchei and uncover the identity of another ghost – a ghost hiding among the remnants of Hitler’s once all-powerful Third Reich – in order to save themselves.
[ My Review ]
A Traitor’s Heart by Ben Creed was published April 28th with Welbeck Publishing. It is the second book in a trilogy featuring conservatoire-trained violinist turned state militia lieutenant Revol Rossel. Described as ‘an intelligent, atmospheric historical thriller‘ it follows on from the very exciting and gripping City of Ghosts
Set in 1952, A Traitor’s Heart sees Revol Rossel imprisoned in ‘a Corrective Labour Camp, under the jurisdiction of the GULAG, or Main Camps Directorate’, put there by his nemesis Major Nikitin. Life in the camp is truly abysmal, each day bringing death a step closer. The barbaric living conditions combined with the merciless actions of the soldiers on duty drive some inmates to extreme behaviour. There is a hierarchy within the camp with vicious threats and cold-blooded murder a daily experience. Survival is a constant challenge as, both mentally and physically, all prisoners are suffering from starvation leaving them weakened and their endurance levels close to non-existent. Revol Rossel has been through some extraordinary and treacherous experiences, with the memories of the Siege of Leningrad, the city he dearly loves, always a shadow in his life. He has witnessed pure horror and has been through his own personal hell but he refuses to be downtrodden and has an incredible will to survive.
An unexpected visitor to the labour camp requesting his presence throws Rossel in a spin. Major Oleg Nikitin, the man who tortured Rossel and cut off his fingers, ending any ambition of a career as a violinist, wants to strike a deal with Rossel. A murderer is forging a sinister path in Leningrad with a mounting body count. The victims are shot twice with their tongues cut out and a scroll of paper stuffed in its place instead, covered with a few lines of Italian script.
Nikitin had once been an interrogator with the MGB but was now under the instruction of the GRU.* He has his own personal demons placing a constant threat to his, and his family’s, safety. He is a desperate man in need of results fast.
(*Historical Note – The MGB (Ministry for State Security) was the name of Josef Stalin’s intelligence agency and secret police force from 1946 to 1953 and the predecessor to the KGB. According to a BBC article the ‘GRU stands for Main Intelligence Directorate – outlasted the KGB when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and appears to be flourishing today. The GRU is probably Russia’s most effective spy agency.’)
Rossel had a reputation for being a top-class investigator and now Nikitin needs him to help find this mysterious executioner. Frightening the citizens of Leningrad, they now call this enigma ‘Koshchei the Immortal’, named after a figure from Slavic folklore. An elusive figure, Nikitin hopes that together they can investigate the case and discover the identity of this killer. Rossel rightfully lacks trust in Nikitin and all that he stands for but his options are limited. His choice is either to assist in the investigation or to remain forever behind the fence of this Siberian nightmare.
Rossel returns with Nikitin to a bitter cold Leningrad. He is placed in temporary accommodation, fed and watered but there is a constant threat over his life. With the information that Nikitin has available to date, he pieces together the evidence in front of them and he starts to get a better picture of who they are looking for. A high-staked hunt ensues as they get ever closer to their prey and a very complicated web of deceit unravels, one that stretches back to the Third Reich.
A Traitor’s Heart is a very sophisticated thriller, one that brings the reader right into the complexities and hierarchy of Stalinist Russia. Music and culture is a very noticeable element throughout Revol Rossel’s story with his studying of music running in parallel with that of Barney Thompson (one half of this writing duo) who also studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. This knowledge from one of the trilogy’s co-creators adds a very authentic edge to the plot. A Traitor’s Heart is a fascinating and original tale set against the ever pervasive Russian authorities of the 1950s. A complex thriller, A Traitor’s Heart is a dark and intense read with a great central protagonist in Revol Rossel, an uncompromising hero who has been toughened by atrocious experiences yet carries a strong determination to survive.
[ About the Authors ]
Ben Creed is the pseudonym for Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson. City of Ghosts is the first book in a gripping trilogy and has sold in multiple international deals.
Chris Rickaby spent twenty years working in advertising and copywriting. He started his own marketing agency, Everything Different, which he left a few years ago to focus on writing. He has written and produced various TV programmes for ITV and FIVE and created an award-winning cross-platform novel called Shuffle. Chris is from and still lives in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Barney Thompson harboured ambitions of becoming a conductor and studied under the legendary conducting professor Ilya Musin at the St Petersburg Conservatory, before diverting to a career in journalism. He has worked at The Times and the Financial Times, and is now an editor and writer at the UN Refugee Agency.