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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Crime Novelist Marinina Returns

At long last Alexandra Marinina, the most popular writer in post-Soviet Russia, has produced a new crime novel.

The initial print run is 170,000, an absolute record in the recent history of Russian book publishing, and 20,000 copies more than last year's No. 1 bestseller, an unauthorized biography of pop queen Alla Pugachova.

Titled "Requiem," the novel was published in early September by Eksmo, and sells for 25 to 35 rubles.

The author of some 20 crime novels over the last few years, Marinina took a year to produce her latest book. She even retired from her career with the Moscow militia, where she was lieutenant-colonel and a professor at the police academy.

Myriads of her passionate admirers spent the whole time speculating on whether or not Marinina would stick with her favorite heroine, Nastya Kamenskaya, an officer with the Moscow criminal investigation department.

Well, "Requiem" is the same good (or bad) old stuff about Major Kamenskaya, who now works in a new analytical department, awaiting promotion and missing her former, more active, involvement in criminal cases.

But she gets her chance when she is asked to investigate the strange case of the murder of a police cadet. To solve it she rather unconvincingly links the killing with another one 10 years earlier.

Over 300 pages later there is another corpse, and the mystery is solved. Most of the characters in the novel belong to Russian show business, which is depicted in the book as being even more corrupt than it probably is.

The very knowledgeable tabloid, Sobesednik, recently reviewed the book, saying, in part: "The novel contains the disgracefully transparent figure of an absolutely familiar prima donna who decides to marry, for the benefit of her career, a popular singer half her age." The reference to Alla Pugachyova and hubby Filipp Kirkorov could not be clearer.

The young singer's producer is a mirror image of the real-life Oleg Nepomnyaschy, who used to be Pugachyova's manager and is now Kirkorov's producer. According to Sobesednik, everybody knows that it was Nepomnyaschy who initiated and managed the matrimonial business union.

It is the second novel by Marinina that I have read, partly as a professional observer of the Russian book market and partly out of curiosity.

"Requiem" is not that bad, and it is certainly better than most Russian crime novels. I am not so highbrow as to dismiss it entirely, but to recommend it to others would be as awkward for me as to support Boris Yeltsin because Gennady Zyuganov is worse.

It is a poor choice. Russia has always had ugly politicians and great writers. My question is: Where have all the writers gone?