Russian Dolls by Cristelle Comby
Genre: New Adult – Mystery & Detective
Published: March 13, 2013 by Createspace
Format/Source: eBook through Blog Tour
Pages: 302 in Paperback edition
Alexandra Neve is a student at University College London whose world suddenly falls apart. When her best friend jumps from the university’s rooftop, she can’t stop herself from asking, ‘Why?’ The police rule her friend’s death a suicide and for them the case is closed — so whom can she turn to for help?
Sometimes the person you need the most is the one you least expect to find, and in this case it’s none other than Ashford Egan, a blind middle-aged history professor, who’s more willing than most to listen to what she has to say.
Neve and Egan are as different as they come. She’s restless, careless at times, and fearless when the need arises, while he’s almost the complete opposite: a deep thinker with an analytical mind, a highly rational and collected individual.
As they enter the violent world of the Russian mafia, they must overcome their differences and learn to work together. It’s their only chance if they want to survive.
‘Hello,’ comes a light baritone, after three rings. Relief washes over me.
‘Hi,’ I say, still sounding raspy. ‘Alexandra Neve.’
There’s silence on the line and I imagine him frowning, trying to place the name.
‘You interviewed me about three weeks ago, about the case of Irina Anderson, and then you gave me your card.’
‘Yes, I remember you now,’ he says. ‘Is everything all right?’
Peachy, I’m tempted to say. ‘My flat’s on fire, Sergeant,’ I say, instead. ‘It just exploded and not because I left the kettle on.’
‘What?’ he stammers, surprised. ‘Are you all right?’
‘I’m fine,’ I reply. ‘Look, this wasn’t an accident. I’ve been investigating what happened to Irina.’
‘You what?’ I can hear him moving about and then the unmistakable jingle of keys. ‘Give me your address and stay where you are.’
‘Queen’s Drive, Hackney. It’s the building with the dozen fire-fighters in front,’ I tell him, before hanging up.
I stand up and shoulder my bags. The flames are finally dying and only two small ones remain; smoke is still escaping through the bedroom window.
I don’t have time to dwell on it right now. There are more urgent matters at hand. I cast my eyes around, taking in the people massed around the scene. At the front of the crowd, I recognise most of my neighbours. I don’t know them all by name but their faces are familiar.
A little farther up the road are curious neighbours who have been attracted by the commotion and bright lights. I don’t know them, but most of their faces are familiar. Men I’ve seen walking their dogs, women I’ve seen taking their kids to school. There are a few faces I don’t know, lurking in the background. I take a few steps toward the bystanders and look intently. I see two men in deep conversation with each other. One’s wearing clothes but he’s barefoot; the other is in pyjamas. Normal.
I cast my eyes a little further to the left and find a man dressed in dark denim and a leather jacket. Unlike everyone else, he doesn’t look like someone who’s just got out of bed or left his home in a hurry. I look at his face and note he’s neither horrified nor amazed by the burning building. He looks blank. Suspicious.
I reach for my phone again and raise it to take a picture of this strange man. When I look up, he’s disappeared. I run to where he was but he’s gone. Pushing through the crowd with difficulty, it takes me a little while to get to the place where the man had been standing. When I do, I catch a glimpse of a single red tail light dancing away in the distance. It’s a bike, driving away at full speed.
I’ve never read a book that was specifically marketed as ‘New Adult’. I fall squarely within the intended audience of this new marketing phenomenon but I still am not quite sure I understand it. I’ve read my fair share of young adult and adult books, so it was definitely interesting to read something that was perhaps a bit more in-between.
Alexandra Neve and Ashford Egan are definitely not your typical sleuth pair. Similar to Dark Lie, where the main character suffered from Lupus, I enjoyed that the main characters are not extraordinarily beautiful or ‘perfect’. Egan’s blindness offered an interesting element to the mystery.
I enjoyed Russian Dolls for its intrigue and unpredictability. I am never that good at guessing where a mystery is going in the first place, but I didn’t find myself not wondering what was going to happen next, or what the resolution was going to be. The writing was at its strongest during the action scenes.
I did not give this book 5 stars because, Porca vacca! It could get a little repetitive. Alexandra started really bugging me in her inability to follow directions, particularly when the directions were coming from the police. I understand that it was imperative to have her be in the thick of it for the sake of there to be a story as it was written in first person, but her absolute refusal to follow directions, especially when they were important ones really bugged me. However, it could be said that that was strength of the character because she remains true to herself in that she is a very stubborn character and very well likely not have listened to her elders.
As far as whether this book fits within the New Adult category? I’d say yes. The main character is in her early twenties, trying to figure out who she is and the more adult themes are refreshing after some of the PG young adult reads out there. I think people are wrong when they try to say that New Adult should remain innocent of real violence or deep themes. Russian Dolls, while dealing with human trafficking and gang activity, is an exhilarating read that can help remove you into its world.
My rating: 4/5
Cristelle Comby was born and raised in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, somewhere between Geneva and Lausanne, where she still resides. Thanks to her insatiable thirst for American and British action films and television dramas, her English is fluent. She attributes to her origins her ever-peaceful nature and her undying love for chocolate. She has a passion for art, which also includes an interest in drawing and acting. Russian Dolls is her first new-adult novel, and she’s hard at work on the next titles in the series.
www.cristelle-comby.com| Twitter: @Cristelle | facebook: /cristelle.comby