A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a high-explosive bomb.


Terrorists strike in the heart of Moscow, leaving search-and-rescue commander Eugene Sokolov shell-shocked. Soon, his brother Constantine traces the attack to a family secret that will change history.

Chaos reigns. The Kremlin teeters on the brink of downfall.

From the seedy alleys of Paris to the Russian wilderness, Eugene and Constantine embark on a deadly mission to expose the criminal plot.

But a shadowy oligarch will stop at nothing to kill them and protect the ultimate conspiracy of World War II.

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"Once again, Ian Kharitonov blurs the line between history and fiction so smoothly that I’d have to do my own research to locate the boundaries. A more than worthy successor to his extraordinary debut novel, ‘The Russian Renaissance.’ More action, more political intrigue, and a grittier narrative than he gave us the first time around. This author just keeps on getting better."
~ Jeff Edwards, bestselling author of THE SEVENTH ANGEL and SWORD OF SHIVA.


Excerpt



FIVE MINUTES AFTER THE explosion, a Eurocopter EC145 lifted off the helipad of a children’s hospital across the Moskva River. The rotor blades whipped the air, its twin engines whining as the nimble helicopter soared into the sky. The Eurocopter’s white fuselage had the sleek shape of a shark’s head. A blue-and-orange stripe running along either side denoted the color scheme of the Russian EMERCOM. Conventionally known as the Ministry of Emergency Situations, EMERCOM had earned a reputation as the finest rescue agency in the world. From war-torn villages to tsunami-hit shores, EMERCOM specialists reacted wherever and whenever disaster struck.

The crew comprised the pilot, co-pilot and two doctors, but this time an unexpected fifth passenger had boarded the Eurocopter: Major Eugene Sokolov, commander of EMERCOM’s Extra-Risk Team. Through the window, Sokolov examined the panorama below. At the heart of Moscow, the Kremlin spires, Red Square, the golden domes of the Christ the Savior Cathedral glistening in the sun, all looked like toy models along with other blocky buildings. He also saw black smoke spreading near the Bolshoi. Sokolov muttered a curse, but the thumping rotors absorbed any sound. One of the doctors, a wiry middle-aged man, maintained radio contact with the paramedics on site, while the pilots received an all-okay signal to land.

Sokolov checked the Breitling chronometer on his wrist. The Eurocopter descended, the short, two-kilometer flight over in under a minute. Cordoned off by the police, Theater Drive offered an empty patch of asphalt amid the raging chaos. As soon as the skids touched down, Sokolov slid his passenger door open and hopped down from the cabin. Immediately, ambulance crews rushed two gurneys to the helicopter’s rear and loaded the victims through the clamshell doors. Sokolov caught a glimpse of their faces—injured, bleeding teenagers, a boy and a girl, hit by shrapnel. Air currents from the sweeping blades tugged at Sokolov’s orange-sleeved EMERCOM windbreaker and disheveled his sandy hair. The Eurocopter hovered above the ground again and headed back to the hospital where it was stationed.

Tall and athletic, Sokolov strode across Theater Drive drawing the attention of gawkers crowded along the sidewalks. Some of them stared at the bombing site in stunned silence, others recorded the aftermath with their phone cameras. Only a few tried to help the paramedics who had just arrived. The mildly injured made their way to the ambulances, accompanied by medics, while those in critical condition were stretchered off. Several corpses lay unattended. Blood slicked the pavement in reddish brown splashes. Sokolov stepped over the glass shards, metal chunks and other debris strewn around. The surrounding buildings had all had their windows shattered by the blast wave. A smoldering, corrugated chassis, torn in half, was all that remained of the vehicle driven by the suicide bomber. Damaged cars had congested the street around the epicenter, either hit directly by the blast force or peppered with fragments. Cries filled Theater Drive, cutting through the black haze and the burning stench. Sirens blared a cacophony as ambulances drove victims off to hospitals and new fire engines arrived together with police cruisers.

A woman lay prostrate on the ground, her right shoe missing, blood streaking down her leg. He raced to her, kneeling to hold her head. She was unconscious but he felt her pulse. He waved his arm, calling for a paramedic who quickly took over.

Dread swelled inside him when Sokolov approached the six-story building which had taken the most damage. Fire engines lined up, dousing the flames as the firemen evacuated people with ladder trucks. Part of the elaborate nineteenth-century façade had collapsed. At the entrance, a deep crater yawned in the ground. Sokolov struggled to grasp the reality. He had walked through these doors less than an hour ago, and now in their place he found only rubble.

The terrorists had targeted the EMERCOM headquarters.



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