Madness Treads Lightly
by Polina Dashkova
Review by Mel Jacob
AmazonCrossing Trade Paperback / eBook ISBN/ITEM#: 9781477823460
Date: 12 September 2017 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Set in the 1990's Russia, Madness Treads Lightly by Polina Dashkova relates the story of the impact of the past on the present. Like other Northern European mysteries, it is dark and claustrophobic at times. Dark because of the Russian government, climate, and mentality. However, it provides many insights into a country undergoing major changes as Lena Polyanskaya investigates the death of a friend that links to past events and puts her life and her family in danger.
Dashkova's mysteries are popular in Russia, although not well known in the U.S. Her prose provides insights into Russian lives and bits of history. The story, originally published in 2000 in Russia, is not always easy to follow. The Russian coup had been put down and Boris Yeltsin was coming into power. Putin was not yet an elected official.
The novel offers a rich palette of characters including several psychopaths, a serial rapist/murderer, an assassin, and a couple of investigators. Past histories dominate the crimes along with venality of government officials.
For Lena, the trouble begins when a friend, Olga Sinitsyna calls to tell her Olga's brother has committed suicide. Lena finds that difficult to believe especially when she finds morphine was injected into the victim's left arm because he was left handed.
One can only wonder how some of the characters survived childhood. While it makes the rationale for their crimes clear, it does not absolve them. Worse is to see some escape punishment.
An exciting climax pits Lena and the assassin fighting for their lives in the frozen Siberian landscape. She faces death from exposure or from the men hunting her.
The translation by Marian Schwartz appears well done. Amazon Crossing is a relatively new publishing venture for Amazon focusing on translations of foreign novels.