This is the latest story in a series of exciting thrillers in which Elizabeth Ducie’s two brilliant heroines, the Jones sisters Suzanne and Charlie, track down ruthless criminals and bring them to justice.
The two previous novels in the series, Deception! and Counterfeit!, were set in Africa and South America respectively, and in Corruption! we meet some characters from these earlier stories. This is great because, although each novel is complete in itself, I had wondered what really happened to the arch-criminal Michael Hawkins, to his adopted daughter Mercy, and to the genial and clever Walter Mukooyo I last met in Kenya.
Corruption! is set in the UK, Russia and Ukraine, and opens with a striking scene in which policemen in Vladivostok discover a small scale drug operation devoted to the production of krokodil, a cheap but lethal illegal high that’s killing far too many Russians. Who is supplying the basic ingredients used to manufacture krokodil? It can’t be the charming, cultured, French-speaking Russian factory owner Anton, who meets grieving widow and former politician Francine Matheson on holiday, and invites her to stay with him and his family in St Petersburg - can it?
Anton’s factory produces a range of pharmaceuticals but there’s no way he would be involved in anything untoward - is there?
Francine’s reluctant suspicions are gradually aroused and she confides in her friends Suzanne and Charlie, who both fly to Russia to help Francine investigate. They eventually come up against a really dangerous old enemy, missing and presumed dead but actually very much alive and, in his old age, involved in a massive intercontinental drug racket. Stefano Mladov, an apparently respectable factory owner but also an unreformed gangster, is equally threatening. So soon, all three women are in real danger.
The author has travelled widely in Eastern Europe and it was a pleasure to be taken on a guided tour around the former Soviet Union, visiting the Winter Palace in St Petersburg and gazing at the Czarist magnificence of it all. The minor characters Mama D and her daughter Lydia are delightful, while the gigantic restaurant owner Mama Katya is alarmingly charming. I felt that her restaurant serving the best borscht in Russia must have been drawn from life!
This story ends with the introduction of a brand new character, but it’s going to be a while before she can feature as the heroine of a story of her own. So, in the meantime, perhaps Elizabeth could send the Jones sisters on another adventure? I’d love to read it.
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