Cover Image: Motherland


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Member Reviews

Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author, for an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
Unfortunately, I have tried reading this book on 2 separate occasions and during this 2nd attempt, I have only managed to make it halfway through so I'd rather stop here and state that this book just wasn't for me.
I wish the author, publisher, and all those promoting the book much success and connections with the right readers.
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I'm sad that I wasn't able to read this book, because it was too much at the same time. I guess that his book was amazing and I would love to try and read it. 
Now i will have to buy one!
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This is one of my top reads this year. I wouldn't compare Abson with Jo Nesbo - Abson's writing is in a league of its own. The lead character, an honest police woman navigating a mire of corruption, is completely believable and wins the reader's loyalty (which is good for the next in the series). Set in St Petersburg,  her quest is to solve a mystery that takes her through the stunningly described landscapes of Russia and into Scandinavia. The plot and its twists and turns reveal an intimate knowledge and understanding of the politics of the region - or at least, this author was able to convey a deep knowledge of the setting and subject, which is the same thing. A thoroughly satisfying reading experience.
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Thanks to netgalley for the ARC of thrilling book!! The book is set in old mother Russia. The author describes the city and the country so vividly, I could just feel the cold weather creep into my own bones! It was well written, and gripping until the end. Highly recommended.
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So looking forward to read Motherland by G. D. Abson and really enjoyed this book. Motherland is the first in a gripping news series of crime novels set in St Petersburg, I am looking forward reading more in this series and especially this new author to me. This book was dark, with lots of twists and turns that had a brilliant ending. I loved Captain Natalya Ivanova the main Police woman and the characters in this new book. 
Thank you Netgalley , Mirror Books and G.D. Anson for the eARC.
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Introducing the fearless and intriguing Captain Natalya Ivanova, G.D. Abson's Motherland is the first in a new crime series set in Putin's contemporary Russia.

When Zena Dahl, a Swedish student studying in St. Petersberg, goes missing after a night out with a friend, Captain Natalya Ivanova is tasked with discovering what happened to her. Initially believing it likely that Zena is staying with friends and hasn't informed anyone, Natalya soon changes her mind when she learns Zena is the adopted daughter of a Swedish billionaire. Suddenly kidnapping seems the more credible conclusion to be drawing. But when a body is discovered, a bag matching the description of the one Zena was carrying left nearby, Natalya's missing person case evolves into a murder enquiry. 

I have to commend the author for the meticulous research conducted in order to write this novel with the air of authenticity it exudes from every page. In fact the detail was one of the things that I really enjoyed about this title, and the complex plot is so well written that it's hard to believe this is Abson's debut. If their portrayal is to be believed (because, artistic licence!), it seems the communist Russia of yesteryear, with confessions elicited through violence, and corruption and backhanders being rife, and its modern day counterpart aren't too dissimilar after all. Having been raised in Germany before returning to her native Russia, though, Natalya isn't like many of her colleagues and prefers to play it straight rather than fall down that rabbit hole. Which doesn't bode well when she begins to have concerns about the conduct of her own husband, Mikhail, a Major who works at the same police station, leading Natalya to fear she cannot completely trust him.

Featuring a nicely developed cast of supporting characters, an intriguing side-story involving Natalya's family, and a cleverly woven murder mystery, in Motherland Abson has written a compelling, dark and thrilling introduction to a new series - one that I'd be happy to continue reading.
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Pining for the heady excitement of Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 trilogy? Wishing that Martin Cruz Smith would recapture the magic of Gorky Park over and over again? Well fret no more gentle reader, as we may be onto a bit of a winner with Motherland, the first instalment of a new series featuring Captain Natalya Ivanova of the St Petersburg Criminal Investigations Directorate…

From the air of breathless danger that Abson introduces in the prologue, through to an extremely tense conclusion, real heart in the mouth stuff, I found this thriller utterly compelling throughout. I thought that Abson’s control of pace and tension was superb, and the balance between the domestic affairs and professional life of Ivanova, was spot on, with neither overpowering the other. They worked together to give the reader an extremely rounded depiction of all aspects of Ivanova’s life,  be it the professional tension of being married to a fellow crime investigator, the nefarious interference in their investigation by other Russian security services, and the sheer intensity and intrigue of the case itself involving a major figure in Swedish industry, and the suspected kidnap and murder of his adopted daughter. I also enjoyed the intermittent references to Putin, his rise to power, his strengthening grip on all aspects of Russian life, and how his shadow looms over the structures of law enforcement and criminal investigation, which reminded me strongly of David Young’s excellent depiction of Stasi interference in East Germany in his series featuring Major Karin Muller. All of these strands weaved in and out sustaining the reader’s interest and engagement, and I found it very difficult to second guess where the story was going, and who was the most duplicitous of the characters involved. There were some nifty little tricks and turns in the plot, and most satisfyingly I didn’t identify the utter rotter at the close of the book, but thought this revelation was unexpected, but totally believable in the context of the plot itself.

Another aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed were the little instances of gentle, and not so gentle, joshing that occur between Ivanova  and her colleagues, and the wonderfully eccentric babushka who inhabits the apartment next to that of the murdered girl, who finds herself inextricably linked to the case as the finale approaches. I enjoyed the building of tension and suspicion in Ivanova’s marriage, from her belief that her husband Misha has acquired dirty money, her growing reliance on alcohol and cigarettes, and her wonderfully lax approach to housework and cooking. She has a natural feistiness to her character that is endearing, and by the same token Abson does not make her some kind of indestructible kick-ass heroine, with the violence she experiences producing realistic results. I appreciated the balance that Abson brought to her character, and that her character is nicely defined by not being completely Russian, and that her upbringing in Germany, where her sister resides, could be expanded on in future books.

Overall, I thought Motherland was a strong, positive start to a series, introducing a notable female protagonist, and a nice little cohort of personal and professional relationships, that will give stability, and opportunities for character development in further books. Abson can dip his toes in an oligarch’s fountain, and avoid a trip to the gulag as Motherland was an extremely enjoyable thriller. Highly recommended.
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"Motherland" is a fast-paced, police procedural crime novel set in the beautiful, yet corrupt, St. Petersburg, Russia.  The protagonist is Natalya Ivanova, a Russian police detective with the Criminal Investigations Directorate. (Russian C.I.D.)

On a personal note, Natalya is in her late thirties, married to a fellow police officer, and is as yet childless, though she has come to care for her teenage step-son.  Thanks to an inheritance from her husband's mother, they live in a luxury apartment with a view of the stone lions on Lviny Bridge.

Her work with the police normally involves the investigation of domestic violence. This is rampant in the chauvinistic Russian society where the perpetrators of domestic abuse rarely get punished for their crimes. Despite the fact that she is surrounded by patronizing, and condescending co-workers, Natalya's idealism remains unabated, much to the amusement of her husband Mikhail.

One weekend, while she is 'on-call', she receives a telephone call to investigate the disappearance of Zena Dahl, a 19 year-old student and the adoptive daughter of a billionaire Swedish businessman. Natalya Ivanova speculates that the young woman was kidnapped, but when the body of the young woman is discovered, the focus of the investigation shifts. Events conspire to put Natalya's police career, perhaps even her life, in jeopardy.  When the FSB get involved, things spiral downward...

"Women hate the lie more than what it conceals."

Natalya's personal life is precarious as well. She has begun to mistrust her husband and suspects him of corruption.

"Honesty is admirable in an honest society, but here it destroys you."

Throughout the novel one is made abundantly aware that this is a city, and a country, that accepts corruption as the norm. A place where everyone uses bribes to smooth their way through a corrupt bureaucracy.  A place where the populace is rightly distrustful of the police who are often incompetent or corrupt themselves, partly due to the minuscule wage they earn.  A place where the police officers have to be breathalyzed before they can take out a police car. A place where young men are conscripted into the army - by force if need be...


I am always intrigued when an author chooses a protagonist of a different gender to their own.  In this case, the author really extended himself by writing with a woman protagonist AND having set his novel in a foreign country.

This book reinforced my gratitude that I live in a democratic country, with all the freedoms and privileges that Canada has to offer. I believe "Motherland" was the first novel (other than 'Dr. Zhivago' many years ago) that I've read that was set in Russia. It is fast paced, the writing flows well, yet - although police procedurals are a favourite sub-genre of mine, "Motherland" was just not in my comfort zone. The author obviously has a lot of talent, yet I'm skeptical as to whether I'll continue on with the series.  This in no way reflects on the novel, rather it is a personal foible of mine that I want to 'like' the setting, and sadly Russia just doesn't appeal at all - though the character of Natalya did hold appeal for me. The Russian psyche is so vastly different from the Canadian psyche that I felt uncomfortable while reading it.

"Motherland" meticulously sheds a spotlight on modern day Russia's continued political corruption, rampant chauvinism, propaganda, and organized crime.  Well fleshed out characters and an expertly rendered, intricate plot assure promised success for this thriller series. A worthy addition to the suspense/crime thriller genre.
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Bringing modern day St Petersburg to life, with amazing narrative, Motherland puts you right in the heart of Putin's Russia.  Featuring every possible 'faction' you could imagine from the criminal Mafia, to the political FSB and the very public 'legitimate' Oligarchs of modern day, Motherland is a fascinating read.    Whilst it did take me one or two attempts to get into the story,  Once I did I loved it, and I definitely say that, once you have familiarised yourself with names etc, in the the beginning it will then keep you up all night because you want to see how tenacious Captain Natalya Ivanova is going to navigate her working obstacles, home life issues, and get to the bottom of a case far from as straightforward as it would appear.

I my opinion, if you didn't know, you wouldn't class this as a debut novel because it is so well written, and I'm certainly looking forward to more from Natalya....
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It was an absolute treat to read Motherland. Before I started to read I knew that I wanted the story to convey the location and a cultural identity of Russia so I could feel immersed in the story.  It most certainly did that.  But I also hoped to get a cracking crime thriller to entertain me.  Motherland delivers that too.

Captain Natalya Ivanova is plucked from her latest assignment to give urgent attention to a missing student.  The missing girl’s father is a businessman with significant wealth behind him and urgent action is needed, with the pressure on Natalya to deliver a fast resolution.

I was not shocked to find that there are significant political pressures placed upon Natalya as she conducts her investigation. The modern day equivalent of the KGB are keeping an eye on Natalya and when they are not comfortable with the direction her enquiries are taking they will intercede. This added element of suspicion and scrutiny gives Motherland a satisfying edginess as you read the story – always the possibility that a spanner shall be thrown into the works to disrupt Natalya’s plans.

There were plenty of twists and clever plotting to keep me concentrating as I read. I tend to skim read many of my books but the detail in Motherland kept me glued to the page, didn’t want to skimp on the story and was worried about missing some subtle clues in the plot. When I focus more on a story it only helps enhance my enjoyment so much satisfaction was had.

I realise that in the first 5 months of 2018 I have read crime thrillers set in Rome, Berlin, Louisiana and now St Petersburg.  All seem so very far removed from my wee corner of Scotland but each book has had a distinctive voice and I have loved the variety of locations I am introduced to.  Motherland does a wonderful job of capturing the uniqueness of St Petersburg.

Once you get into the story you will appreciate that Natalya is built up to be a strong lead character with a real life away from her investigations.  You care more about the characters as they become more real to the reader, particularly Natalya, and you want to read her story (and hope that this will not be a stand-alone tale).

If you enjoy police procedurals and fancy a read which takes readers away from the more established stomping grounds of London, Oxford or Edinburgh then Motherland will deliver all the crimey fun you seek with a new backdrop to explore. Highly recommended.
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I love scandi thrillers, and have to admit that I have a soft spot for anything with a setting behind the Iron Curtain, so Motherland really stood out to me when I read the description.

Motherland is a gritty and intelligently written, thrilling read.  The author paints a fantastically vivid picture of both the settings and the characters, and it's not hard to become utterly wrapped up in the narrative.  The underlying corruption that is rife in society adds an interesting arc to the plot, the tentacles of it are far reaching and it almost makes the reader pause to consider which of the characters are corrupt to the core, and which are the ones that offer bribes as a means of getting through life in a corrupt state.

When I started reading this book I was curious to see how the events at the beginning of the book would link up with the plot and was thrilled to see how skillfully the author wove it all together.
The details about the way that police departments work adds a level of authenticity and gives readers a glimpse in to a world they may know very little about.

The character of Captain Natalya Ivanova is crafted so well, she is one that many readers will instantly take a linking towards and will want to find out more about.  The case that she's working on throws so much at her and leaves her questioning who it's really wise to speak to and the secrets she uncovers are enough to shake her to the core.

A very enjoyable read that keeps readers hooked throughout!  Highly recommended!
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Repetitions aside - and things are repeated to get different angles on them (I think) - this has many thematic issues about domestic violence and drinking, and the impact of having millions of US dollars = on people's lives. The main protagonist is Natalya who operates as a police woman in a deeply sexist society where women are regularly beaten by husbands and fathers. She love her steps to point of distraction, and gets along well enough with her partner, a lawyer/investigator who can pull strings when necessary. The Swedish daughter of a millionaire is kidnapped, but seems to be keen to find her father as well - and this leads to great troubles - and different ranks of RUssian ministries and police start bumping in to each other, and pulling rank. Is her adoptive father all he seems? Is the gangster who kidnapped her, the real patriarch? A rather convoluted set of agendas starts to build up so in the end, when the event plays out, i was not really sure what was going on. The attention and importance realised by Natayia and those she forces to support her, is on domestic violence and the distrust of police (and of foreigners) that prevails. Worthy and serious volume ... although slowed up by repeats in the sentiment of the prose.
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I found Motherland a bit tough to get into initially, but it picked up after about halfway. There’s an intriguing plot, and some shady characters with a twist plot running the whole way through. It paints a dark picture of Russia and made for bleak reading at times! Not fast-paced but enough to keep turning the pages!
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Natalya Ivanova is a Detectie in St Petersburg as is her husband Mikhail.  She’s responding to a domestic violence call on a weekend when she is called by her supervisor to look into the report of a missing person.  A young Swedish girl studying at the university has not been seen for some time and her friend is getting increasingly worried.  Natalya is soon convinced that the girl, Zena Dahl, has been kidnapped as her father is a rich businessman.  With corruption, bribery and family secrets this was a really enjoyable read and hope there are more books featuring Natalya.

Thanks to Netgalley, Mirror Books and G D Abson for the ARC in return for an honest review.
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This book was excellent from start to finish. I don't know what it is about this author's writing style that just clicked with me, but throughout the writing just worked. The story was engaging and I had so many questions from so early on. The main mystery remained intriguing despite there being other (also intriguing) story-lines happening at the same time, the tension surrounding Natalya's husband, for example. And on that note the characters were done awfully well, I loved the characters the author wanted me to love, and didn't the ones Abson didn't want me to like. I won't spoil, but keeping in mind that I was full of questions at the beginning, by the end I was completely satisfied. I liked this book a lot, and would definitely recommend it to friends - I hope to see more from this author in the future.
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A solid 4 stars.
This book is depressing in that it takes place in present day St. Petersburg, Russia. Everything bad about corruption that you have read about in Russia comes to life in this dark story of murder and corruption. It is book 1 in the Natalya Ivanova series. Natalya is a police captain in the St. Petersburg Police. She takes the case of a Swedish billionaire's daughter, reported missing. She is also dealing with personal problems in her family. Her husband, Mikhail, another police officer in the same office as her, is hiding something from her. Her stepson, Anton, may or may not be admitted into university, depending on whether or not they can bribe the right people. If he is not admitted to university, he can be drafted into the army and sent to the dirty war in the Ukraine or commit suicide because of vicious hazing meted out to Army recruits.
While dealing with the above, she finds herself entangled with the Mafia, and the FSB, successor to the infamous KGB and just as deadly to anyone in their way. She continues to dig, despite being threatened. She is proud that she does not take bribes, unlike most police. However, this does not win her many friends. How she solves the case is a riveting thriller/mystery with the killer revealed only at the end.
Some quotes: Bribes, Mikhail talking to Anton-- "So you're taking driving lessons, Mikhail swigging on the Ochakovo. 'If I don't pay the examiner he'll fail you no matter how many times you take it. But if I slip him a thousand, he'll pass you even if you've never been inside a car."
Putin: "You like Botox? the woman asked.
Botox. You know, Putin. The old woman pointed at the television and cackled."
Bribes: "What sane society was based on paying and receiving bribes?"..."There was even an app for a mobile phone that calculated the appropriate bribe to offer for a traffic violation."
Thanks to NetGalley, Mirror Books, and the author for sending me this e ARC.
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I really have to stop reading books about Russia written by people who think they know how Russia functions based on their knowledge from the books written by people who have no idea at all.

However, one benefit star from me for Piter and for all research G.D. Abson did for his book. I know for sure he walked along these streets and driven along these roads and bridges himself and didn't just follow the descriptions of this beautiful city from Google Maps. But...still there are so MANY cliches in this book...Besides, in spite of Natalya Ivanova seemed to be the only honest police officer in the city, I didn't become her fan.

I don't think I am interesting in the further books of the series.
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I received a complimentary ARC copy of Motherland (Captain Natalya Ivanova #1) by G. D. Abson from NetGalley and Mirror Books in order to read and give an honest review.

“Incredible characters, intriguing plot and oh, so clever…”

First in a new series by author G.D. Abson, this thriller is the start of something very promising. Fast-paced and gritty, Motherland hooks the reader early on forcing them to hold on for dear life through the twists and turns of this brilliant story.  

Set in modern-day St. Petersburg, Captain Natalya Ivanova of the Criminal Investigations Directorate investigates the disappearance of Zena Dahl, the adopted daughter of Swedish billionaire Thorsen Dahl. As lead investigator Natalya faces one obstacle after another trying to find Zena before it’s too late. When a body is found the kidnapping turns into a homicide investigation and someone wielding a great deal of power will do anything to keep her from finding the truth.  Natalya has to fight it all: political intrigue, corruption, misogyny, marital issues, threats to her family, false accusations, betrayal from those she trusts, mobsters and threats from the FSB (formerly KGB) all to piece together what happened to Zena.  

Abson’s ability to create very real multifaceted characters is brilliant. Natalya, the protagonist, in my opinion, is well written, she is portrayed as down to earth, intelligent, strong, honest, yet flawed and comes across as very real. Married to her co-worker Mikhail, they live a believable family life with her step-son Anton. Through marital strife and threats to her family, she handles it with courage, conviction and a touch of humor. For me, almost every character comes to life on the page, the good, the bad and the well…disgusting.  

Incredible characters, intriguing plot, and a twist at the end that was truly unexpected. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to future books in the Captain Natalya Ivanova series.  If you are looking for a clever fast-paced thriller, I would highly recommend reading Motherland.
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This is a very assured debut thriller set in modern day St Petersburg. Zena Dahl, a Swedish student studying at the University has disappeared during a night out with a friend during the start of the White Nights. Police Captain Natalya Ivanova is assigned the case and thinks Zena is probably just staying with friends and will resurface in a day or two but when she doesn't and Natalya learns that Zena is the adopted daughter of a Swedish billionaire, kidnapping appears to be more likely.

Modern day Russia still bears some of the hallmarks of communist Russia. Alcohol abuse is common and police are breath tested before signing out a car for the day. Graft and corruption are rife and everyone expects to have their palm greased before doing anything. Forensic examination of crime scenes would appear to be very primitive and the police are not adverse to getting "confessions" out of suspects using violence. The FSB (successor to the KGB) keeps getting in the way of her case with their heavy handed tactics. Natalya was brought up in Germany before returning to Russia and therefore has some insight into Western practices and likes to play straight, finding the real culprit instead of framing an innocent. She even has concerns about her own husband, Mikhail a Major in the police force working out of the same station as her and doesn't know if she can totally trust him.

It was refreshing to read a police thriller set in modern Russia, with it's different rules and constraints on the police. Natalya is a great character, smart and honest and passionate about fighting for the underdog and those repressed by a violent society. The plot is complex and multilayered and very impressive for a debut novel. This promises to be the first in a series so I will definitely be looking out for the next episode to find out what happens to Natalya and Mikhail next.
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Motherland, a debut thriller, is a police procedural set in St Petersburg in modern-day Russia. The main character is Senior Detective Natalya Ivanova, working for the Criminal Investigations Directorate which deals with serious crimes. She strives to do her job well, to be an honorable ‘ment’—the local slang for police—even though she knows that police have a bad reputation, though most of the time it is undeserved. 

In this first book, Natalya is assigned to a missing persons case. Zena, the young adopted daughter of a Swedish billionaire, has gone missing after leaving a bar alone late at night. So far there have been no ransom demands, no bodies reported, so there isn’t much to go on. Has the girl just gone off on her own accord, not telling anyone?

A meeting on the father’s private jet ‘confirmed Natalya’s suspicion that the super-rich had broken away and become an entirely different species of human being altogether.’ Natalya can’t help feeling everyone is hiding something from her—Yulia, Zena’s only friend; Dahl, the girl’s father, his lawyer Lagunov. To add to the tension, there is a power struggle going on at work for an opening in the department. And Natalya has problems at home with her new husband and her stepson.

This mystery gives a fascinating look into every day life in Russia under Putin. Natalya ‘pretended to be a European liberal while bribing her way through life like everyone else. That’s what happened when the old KGB men were put in charge of a country. News studios pretended propaganda was the truth. Elections pretended to be fair. Everyone pretended to be someone else, and nobody knew who they were any more.’

Natalya says she is just doing her job when she goes the extra mile to learn the truth. She is brave, resourceful and principled—yes, truly an honorable ‘ment.’  I enjoyed getting to know her through the pages of this story and look forward to reading more in this series. 

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for providing me with an arc of this thriller for an honest review.
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