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Volk's Game: A Novel

A book by Brent Ghelfi

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Russian Roulette

  • Jul 9, 2007
Pity the Russians, a people scarred by their country's repeated strivings for empire, now locked in a transition from a collectivist society that promised little for all to a form of capitalism that, under the Putin regime, delivers many to some and none to others. Russia's DNA is encoded for endurance, not stability and optimism.

Brent Ghelfi understands that dynamic. His debut thriller, "Volk's Game," captures the Russian spirit, that weird combination of brutal strength and mournful acceptance of hardship that's mixed with a fatalism that's native to the Russian character. Readers should be warned: there is plenty of action, but also no hope nor heroes.

Alexei Volkovoy is a gangster in Moscow who provides whatever illegal delights his foreign businessmen clients want. He also works for a man known only as the General, a Russian army officer headquartered in the weeping stone catacombs near the Kremlin, whose life Volk saved in Chechnya. It's a brutal life, but better than war, capture and torture at the hands of Chechen rebel. Only the small acts of charity -- giving money to war widows and arranging adoptions for foundlings -- give him, well, not so much hope, but possibly some relief from his misery.

With his lover and partner, Valya, Volk is hired to spirit out of the Hermitage in St. Petersburg a "lost" painting called "Leda and the Swan" by one L. DaVinci. As expected, there are crosses and double-crosses, and Volk sets off to recover the painting with the directness of a laser and pitilessness of a tiger. What makes this hunt different, is something Volk didn't expect. He fell in love with a painting. "I lust for her beyond reason as I scheme," he reflects, amazed at how a dab of paint on a wooden panel can find a living nerve deep within his deadened soul.

There are no heroes in "Volk's Game." Even Volk is a hard man to find sympathy with, but Ghelfi finds the key to his character that doesn't make him into an angel with dirty faces, nor a killer with a heart of gold. It's a thriller that challenges the mind as it tingles the nerves.

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More Volk's Game: A Novel reviews
review by . November 01, 2012
Dark and depressing
Alex Volkovoy "Volk" is a mercenary.  He was active in the Chechnya war.      He works with a Mafia kingpin named Maxim and another powerful person referred to as The General. He has a girlfriend named Valya who is beautiful but also provides back-up when he's dealing with criminals of Russia.      First he's asked about diamonds and then about a lost Da Vince painting.      He's a compassionate …
About the reviewer
Bill Peschel ()
Ranked #476
Bill Peschel was born in 1960 in Ohio, and grew up there and in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in journalism. At The Avalon Hill Game Company … more
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Former attorney Ghelfi's impressive debut introduces a compelling antihero, Alekei "Volk" Volkovoy. A brutal killer maimed in Russia's war against Chechnya, Volk leads two lives—one as a powerful gangster with a hand in virtually all underworld rackets, the other as a covert military operative. When Volk gets the chance to steal a previously unknown Da Vinci painting,Leda and the Swan, which has been concealed beneath another painting in a St. Petersburg museum, Volk enlists the aid of Valya, a beautiful assassin, in plotting the theft. After an ostensible ally sabotages the operation, Volk seeks vengeance. The twists and turns accumulate at an almost dizzying pace, building to a satisfactory resolution. Frederick Forysth fans will appreciate the crisp writing. This thriller could mark the start of a successful long-running series.(June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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ISBN-10: 0805082549
ISBN-13: 978-0805082548
Author: Brent Ghelfi
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

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