Commissar: A Novel of Civil War Russia
D. V. Chernov
Troubaor Publishing Ltd (2021)
Reviewed by Jill Rey for Reader Views (11/2022)
“Commissar” by D.V. Chernov is a Russian historical spy thriller, taking place in 1918, as Russia is in the midst of a civil war caused by several political forces vying for power in a new Russia taking shape. The author expertly bases this story on real historical events and people, giving it an even greater air of intrigue.
Readers follow Anna Sokolova, a young Russian female in the counter-terrorism department within CHEKA, the newly formed state security agency. Along with her several colleagues, she is tasked with tracking down several high-level British intelligence agents. Anna’s own brilliance and passion for the CHEKA’s vision for Russia guides her as she leads the charge in catching British spies. William Arden, an American with the Red Cross, similarly offers an intriguing side story as his own mission in Russia develops alongside Anna’s, offering even more webs to untangle as the story unravels.
Admittedly, I know next to nothing about politics, Russian politics included, but I didn’t let that stop me from enjoying “Commissar” and learning a great bit about Russian history in the process. As a lover of movies like “Jason Bourne” and “Mission Impossible” I was immediately taken by Anna Sokolova and William Arden. Anna is our perfect female protagonist, she is daring and outspoken, and knows what she wants. Author D. V. Chernov develops Anna’s character so well, emotionally connecting readers with her vision for the future of Russia, and investing us in her friendships, family, and intelligence missions. The most fascinating facet of Anna’s character is the missions, developed and led by her, a woman in 1918 Russia, making her every bit the powerhouse Chernov has created her to be. Similarly, while only a supporting character at best, William leaves readers with a phenomenal cliff hanger, leaving us desperately wanting more!
From the espionage to the action, no stone is left unturned. “Commissar” plays out on the page like a movie, dancing across the Russian landscape. Educating readers on Russia’s history while delivering on action, a cast of diverse characters, and a compelling female lead., D.V. Chernov gives readers nothing short of a Jason Bourne-esque, fast-paced, devouring read.
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