Review of Commissar by Chanticleer Book Reviews

Award: Best Book – 5 Stars

DV Chernov delivers the first book of the Anna Sokolova series, an historical thriller Commissar: A Novel of Civil War Russia destined to capture readers’ attentions and have them coming back for more.

Chernov seamlessly blends historical figures with fictional characters in Commissar. Shining above them all is Anna Sokolova, a revolutionary who fights to protect the newly formed Cheka. Her idealistic goal is to improve the lives of her fellow countrymen.

Commissar deserves a place alongside the best in early 20th century Russian historical fiction.

Anna Sokolova steps off the pages as a gutsy and beautiful woman who is also vulnerable and idealistic. She will do anything it takes to find the British spy “Reilly,” a real character from history, who threatens her country’s new political system.

Chernov sets the scene in Moscow in 1918, after the revolution.

The big players in this international espionage thriller are broken down into two opposing forces: the Red and the White armies. However, outside influences from Britain and the United States complicate the struggles. Anna pursues the British spy, but he eludes capture even with her best agents’ intelligence.

Chernov expertly exposes the British and American desires of maintaining their outside capitalist ideologies within Russia. This forces the Reds to fight harder to preserve the newly formed government.

Anna’s romantic involvement with Sergei, her longtime friend and mentor, falls apart when Sergei becomes withdrawn and places the party over her. Anna’s family disappoints her as well. They intend to flee Russia to Switzerland and resume their bourgeoisie life of wealthy business owners. Anna stays behind and throws herself into her work. Will she ever catch the spy Reilly?

One day, Anna meets William, a representative of the American Red Cross, and with him plans the mission that will change her path forward. Together with Egorov and William, she drives a Rolls Royce, of all things, to southwestern Ukraine to entice a group of anarchists to help her catch the elusive Reilly.

There is another reason for her mission, one involving the Russian treasury and the Bolshevik cause.

Anna approaches Makhno, who helps her organize an ambush and attack of the heavily armed and guarded train transporting the gold, but he has two conditions. He gets all the gold as well as the train. Anna convinces him to split the gold 50/50, and she gets Reilly. Soon the mission details fall into place.

The mission unfolds in a tense battle that claims the life of Anna’s friend and comrade in arms, Egorov. The many deaths weigh on Anna. Coupled with another failure to capture Reilly, Anna’s confidence is rocked, which leaves her questioning the decisions made by her superiors and what the Bolsheviks have come to represent.

Even after her successful retrieval of three times the amount of gold she’d anticipated, Anna loses her drive for the cause. Her successful mission assures her a place in the government as a rising star, and as the winds of war change, the Reds gain control of the government.

Chernov’s masterful blending of fictional with non-fictional characters and events creates a blockbuster read. He gives us a high espionage thriller through the eyes of a daring protagonist, Anna Sokolova, and delivers a riveting story that will keep readers up into the night. Moreover, Chernov’s attention to detail will impress the most avid historian, and his storytelling will appeal to lovers of historical fiction and spy thrillers alike. Highly recommended.

[read review here]

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