Review

A Whisper to the Living: An Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov Mystery

by Stuart M. Kaminsky

Mystery aficionados lost a star writer in 2009 when Stuart
Kaminsky passed away in St. Louis, Missouri. In total, Kaminsky
published well over 50 mystery novels, screenplays and biographies
of film directors. He was also an Edgar Award winner and received
the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America in
2006.

Since 1977, Kaminsky entertained readers with a variety of
protagonists in forums around the world. His first detective was
Toby Peters, a 1940s PI whose plots allowed Kaminsky, a film
professor, to bring Hollywood celebrities as well as other
historical figures of all shapes and sizes into his stories. It
didn’t take long until other sleuths followed. A native
Chicagoan, Kaminsky relocated to Florida just as his character Lew
Fonesca leaves the Windy City for Sarasota after the tragic death
of his wife. Detective Abe Lieberman, a Chicago police officer,
works the neighborhoods and communities as Kaminsky captures in
glorious detail the various ethnic groups and neighborhoods of that
diverse city. He also moved halfway around the world to introduce
readers to Inspector Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov of the Moscow
police.

A WHISPER TO THE LIVING features Rostnikov, the fiercely
independent Russian investigator who marches to the beat of his own
drum. The novel follows the traditional Kaminsky formula with
detectives performing multiple investigations while confronting
life’s personal trials and tribulations. For Rostnikov, his
major case is a serial killer, the “Bitsevsky Maniac,”
named for the park where he has murdered dozens literally in plain
view of the police. The Rostnikov team always receives assignments
of hopeless cases that seemingly cannot be solved, and when
Rostnikov manages to succeed, the credit is usually taken by
others.

The search for the killer comes while Rostnikov prepares for the
wedding of his son, Iosef. In addition, other cases merit
attention, including the investigation into a prostitution ring
that involves murder, political corruption and blackmail. Finally,
the Rostnikov team must solve the apparent double murder of a
Russian heavyweight boxer’s wife and sparring partner. The
boxer is the prime suspect, making the politically sensitive case
perfect for them.

The formula is classic Kaminsky: multiple cases juggling in the
air where the identity of the criminal is not the mystery. It is
not the culprit but the manner by which the crime will be solved
that engages readers. Whether it was Rostnikov, Fonesca or
Lieberman, Kaminsky had the skill and ability to engage readers and
mystery lovers.

A WHISPER TO THE LIVING may well be Stuart Kaminsky’s
final novel. If so, the simple but elegant tales of simple men
solving complicated crimes will be missed. Whether Russian or
American, the detectives and investigators frequenting
Kaminsky’s novels for a quarter of a century believed in
humanity, justice and law. We will miss them and the man who
brought them to life on the pages of classic mysteries.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 24, 2011

A Whisper to the Living: An Inspector Porfiry Rostnikov Mystery
by Stuart M. Kaminsky

  • Publication Date: January 4, 2011
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books
  • ISBN-10: 076531889X
  • ISBN-13: 9780765318893