Turbo Vlast is an interesting man. Once a zek, always a zek – Russian slang for a prisoner in a forced labor camp – even though he spent 20 years in the KGB after being plucked from the Gulag for his facility in language. Turbo now runs a one-man (with some help from his friends and a chatty parrot) detective agency.
Last to Fold offers a twisty story wherein Turbo is retained to get to the bottom of a kidnapping – only to find out that the girl in question is the daughter of his own ex-wife. He hasn’t seen Polina in 20 years, and she’s been living a tumultuous life since then, filled with crimes like embezzlement, identity theft and even murder. Their personal relationship was also tumultuous, and the manipulative Polya was successful in separating Turbo from their son together, Aleksei. The present-day mystery is rooted in a long-ago crime. And let’s just say that Polya is not the only multi-faceted character with a strong unpleasant streak. To get to the bottom of the many layers of intrigue, Turbo has to uncover answers to questions the Russian mob does not want asked. He does so, but not without fallout.
What’s challenging about Last to Fold: As many Russian names as Anna Karenina. (Wait – Iakov! Was he the good guy? Or was that Ivanov?) Many of the main characters hate each other, slept with each other, were married to each other, stole from each other, and betrayed each other. All set against a backdrop of history that I’m not good with.
What’s good about Last to Fold: Pretty tight timeline, funny parrot (Pig Pen), believable computer spyware, compelling character in Eva Mulholland (the “kidnapped” girl), and a killer twist at the end that I did not anticipate. Well done, David Duffy!
How does it stack up against Bent Road and Red on Red, the two previously reviewed nominees for the MWA Edgar for Best First Novel by an American author? For plot and characterization – better than Red on Red, not as good as Bent Road. For voice – tie with Bent Road. That gives Duffy’s nominee a spot smack dab in the middle:
Rankings so far: