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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

BOOKWORM: Criminal Guide Is Authentic Thriller

Documentary books about criminal Moscow are published in vast quantities in the capital and are always surefire bestsellers.

Their publishers, such as Eksmo and Tsentrpoligraf, tend also to be the main suppliers of the "russkiye trillery," or Russian thrillers, that inundate the mass market.

Perhaps this explains the main problem with these so-called documentary books - the disturbingly high percentage of fiction buried in a narrative that is presented as fact.

But this charge cannot be leveled - to the best of my knowledge - at the latest bestseller in the genre, "Criminal Moscow" (Moskva kriminalnaya).

Its author, Lieutenant-Colonel Boris Soldatenko, is an experienced war journalist and crime reporter. He has written a sort of guidebook to steer the reader through the labyrinth of Moscow's murkiest depths: markets, railway stations, airports, flophouses, drug dens, porn studios and cemeteries.

Among the characters and topics featured are:

-A female detective agency specializing in investigations to expose unfaithful husbands;

-A wide range of new devices that can be bought at car markets to legalize stolen cars;

-Graduates of a technical institute trading in stolen mobile phones, radio stations and illegal bugs at the market;

-A female boss running a squad of lokhotronschiki (street cardsharps and other pranksters after your money) who reveals the secrets of the trade and reminisces about her career;

-The sort of meat used for the shashlik found at marketplaces;

-Tricks of the trade of Moscow hookers, their price list and where to find them;

-Regular visitors to the flophouses - why do some of them arrive for the night in Mercedes and Saabs?;

-An insight into the ancient but ever-vibrant art of pickpocketing;

-The shady practices of illegal porno-studio operators: how they hire teenagers for the films, and how they smuggle production abroad;

-Afghan war invalids who hire a group of beggars under the protection of the local mafia: a look at how the profit is split;

-Practical instructions for those wanting to enter paramilitary special services or to serve as mercenaries in "hot spots" in Abkhazia and the Central Asian republics;

-A guide to making large purchases at Moscow's most elite cemeteries; how criminal bosses procure their final resting places at Vagankovskoye cemetery next to the graves of Vladimir Vysotsky and Andrei Mironov.

Published by Tsentrpoligraf, the illustrated hardback "Criminal Moscow" sells for the ruble equivalent of a dollar.