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Pub Date 01 Oct 2019 | Archive Date 27 Nov 2018

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Motherland is the first in a gripping series of crime novels set in contemporary St Petersburg, featuring sharp and intriguing policewoman, Captain Natalya Ivanova. 

Student Zena Dahl, the daughter of a Swedish millionaire, has gone missing after a night out with a friend. Captain Natalya Ivanova is assigned to the case, making a change from her usual fare of domestic violence work, but as she investigates she discovers that the case is not as straightforward as it seems. Dark, violent and insightful, Motherland twists and turns to a satisfyingly dramatic conclusion.


This is Intelligent, ambitious crime writing for the mainstream.    


Motherland is the first in a gripping series of crime novels set in contemporary St Petersburg...

A Note From the Publisher

Available now for Kindle.

Available now for Kindle.

Advance Praise

The dark heart of Putin's Russia beneath the glitz of St Petersburg provides the heady setting for this excellent and gripping debut. Abson, who was shortlisted for a Crime Writers Debut Dagger for Motherland, is surely a name to watch. A Child 44 for Putin-land, this classy page-turner oozes with atmosphere.

– David Young, bestselling author of STASI CHILD and STASI WOLF

The dark heart of Putin's Russia beneath the glitz of St Petersburg provides the heady setting for this excellent and gripping debut. Abson, who was shortlisted for a Crime Writers Debut Dagger...

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ISBN 9781907324833
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Featured Reviews

Motherland is a good read. It’s as much about corruption in Russian society as it is about kidnapping, murder, and the attempts to solve the crime(s).

The story is set in St. Petersberg, Piter to the locals.

The book starts in 1999 with a woman who is a prisoner in her own home. Her husband is Mafia and he has been sentenced to 7 years in prison. She and her 2 year old daughter, with help from an unidentified man, flee into the night. There is an accident.

Jumping forward 17 years we are introduced to Zena, a young woman from Ostermalm Sweden, who is in Piter to study at the university. She has been drinking and is been accosted by 2 local drug addicts. They are scared off when a man approaches and he knows her name. She is reported missing.

Then the story starts in earnest.

Captain Natalya Ivanova is the main protagonist. She is a well written but not a fully fleshed out character. This is not a problem within the book as the details we get move the story along. It also adds intrigue into future books with her as a character. She is an honest officer trying to navigate the lies of witnesses, the internal politics of her department, and the FSB (the former KGB). All of the other characters have enough bones to bring them to life but everyone seems to have something to hide. She is a sympathetic character that the reader can get behind, yet flawed enough allowing you to relate to her.

The pacing of the book is very good. It ebbs and flows as information is revealed. The dialog has a nice delivery, casual when needed, professional when required. The inclusion of Russian slang, derogatory remarks, and the disdain most people have for the police is a constant reminder that things are different in Piter. The city also comes alive. Adding an additional layer to the storytelling. Further adding complexity is the overt corruption within the country. Everyone wants to have their cut, bribe, credit, etc..

G. D. Abson has hooked me with his style, content, pacing, intrigue, and characters. I look forward to more from Natalya Ivanova.

My thanks to Mirror Books, G D Abson, and NetGalley for my copy of Motherland in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

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Scandinavian noir takes a detour through Russia in this first in a new series featuring an idealistic policewoman surrounded by compromised officials - and fellow policemen. The adoptive daughter of a wealthy Swedish businessman is missing., and Captain Natalya Ivanova wonders whether the young woman was kidnapped, considering the potential for a rich payout. When a body is discovered, the focus of the investigation shift, and suddenly Ivanova's 15-year career is at stake.. Gritty, dark, fast-paced, and satisfying.

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This was by far a cop and FSB a robber type of story. It takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia and involves a Russian girl thought to be Swedish, her mothers lover who is a Swedish billionaire, and what happens when she is kidnapped.

Natalya Ivanova is put in charge of finding Zena Dahl and then the story goes on from there. We go into vodka, guns, the establishment, and everything you think about Russia and even Putkin is brought out, well talked about.

The story goes around and around giving us something to think about such as red flags (n0 pun intended). We have relatives involved, bad cops, the FSB, and gangsters. It's quite a story to think about, don't think to hard it's a fun play on what we believe to be true.

Natalya Ivanova will be watched to see how well the story comes out. Will there be another story? Time will tell, but my readers will be told to get a book for themselves.

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A classy police procedural set in present-day St. Petersburg. Captain Natalya Ivanova is an attractive protagonist, tough without being over-feisty, with a sense of humour and an interesting relationship with her husband Mikhail, a Major in the same police department. The story is paced though slightly goes overboard in the last 20-25% as the FSB get involved and everything gets a bit frantic.

Despite that, there's a sense of realism about this, and a naturalness in the dialogue that keeps the pages turning. If this is the start of a Russian-set series, I'd be up for the next one.

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I thought Motherland was excellent. It is well written, has a good story and gives a very convincing picture of present-day Russia.

The main protagonist is Natalya Ivanova, a senior investigator in the equivalent of the St. Petersburg CID. She is called to investigate the disappearance of the daughter of a Swedish businessman who is very rich and therefore gets police attention to the case. A complex story of corruption, murder and mafia involvement emerges, which I found to be a gripping tale. The writing and background are so good that even when the odd familiar trope of the detective thriller crops up, it still rings true in the context.

Although this becomes a very gripping and exciting story, the plot unfolds very slowly to begin with. I though this was actually a strength of the book because what really makes Motherland stand out is the picture of life in modern Russia, with endemic corruption, mafia bosses and state enforcers acting with near-impunity and so on, while ordinary people try to get through as best they can. This includes Natalya, whose character and everyday compromises seemed very real to me, as did all the characters in the book. It's exceptionally well painted and – to this non-expert, at least – thoroughly convincing. I marked a number of passages, like this neat summation: "That's what happened when 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."

I think this is a very impressive debut indeed, and I look forward to more from G.D. Abson. Warmly recommended.

(My thanks to Mirror Books for an ARC via NetGalley.)

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A Swedish student, Zena Dahl, daughter of a billionaire goes missing in St Petersburg and Captain Natalya Ivanova is put in charge of the investigation. She encounters resistance from both within the police force and from Zena's father to stop the investigation which makes her more determined to investigate.. I loved the book. It is an extremely well written,, engrossing book. Captain Ivanova is a wonderful character and you can feel how as a woman she is being treated as not the equal to her male counterparts. Looking forward to more.of her future books. Highly recommended.

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I would like to thank Netgalley and Mirror Books for a review copy of Motherland, the first in a projected series of thrillers set in present day St Petersburg.

Captain Natalya Ivanova is redirected from the domestic assault case she is handling to investigate the disappearance of a missing teenager. With no evidence of a crime, the girl being missing for less than 48 hours and over 18 she is puzzled until she learns that the girl is Swedish and seriously rich. Zena Dahl's disappearance requires investigation but Natalya is unprepared for the level of investigation required and the danger she will face.

I enjoyed Motherland which is a big book with a multi-faceted plot and great insight into modern day Russia. The plot is interesting and held my attention but I found the politics hard to warm to and almost fantastical, if I didn't know that they are realistic. I found the abuse of power difficult and uncomfortable to read.

Motherland is a difficult novel to review without spoilers because the plot and lifestyle are inextricably linked. There is a lawlessness that runs through the whole novel whether state sponsored or on the part of the characters. Nobody, apart maybe from Natalya, is wholly as they appear and everyone has secrets. The novel has a pervasive sense of menace and lack of personal security which makes it a dark, gritty read. It reminds me of the Stasi series where big brother is always watching.

The novel is excellent on the minutiae of Russian life and attitudes which, to Western sensibilities, seem decades old. For example, domestic abuse is not punishable unless the victim is half or fully killed and there are moves afoot to downgrade it to an administrative misdemeanour. On the other hand police officers have to take a breathalyser before driving. This mixture of attitudes is evident throughout. Natalya Ivanova is seen as an outsider due to spending her teenage years in Germany and her "liberal" views on policing and human rights. This allows the reader to identify with her and get a genuine feel for the setting. It's an inspired idea.

I think that as a first novel in a series Mr Abson has to do a fair amount of scene setting which, while interesting, does at times distract from the plot and makes the novel wordier than a less complex setting would require. The novel doesn't drag but sometimes goes a bit slower than I would have liked.

Motherland is a very interesting début and I will definitely be reading the sequel so I have no hesitation in recommending it as a good read.

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Motherland G.D. Abson

Set in modern day St Petersburg this is a fast-paced crime thriller, will be loved by readers of good old fashion spy books by Len Deighton, as much as lovers of modern Scandinavian Crime by people like Jo Nesbo.

Detective Natalya Ivanova works in the Criminal Investigation Directorate, a police force staffed by chauvinistic, homophobic, racist men, not least of all is her Husband Mikhail and his best friend, and Sergeant, Rogov.

When a young, pretty, and wealthy woman, is attacked in the street before going missing, Natalya is sent to look into her disappearance. It turns out the woman is the heiress to a fortune amassed by her father who is a Scandinavian Businessman, but he is being less than helpful.

The investigation is set against the oxymoron of today’s Russia. Iphones and laptops are aplenty but the technology for forensics is nearly none existent. Natalya’s one true ally is the senior criminologist (CSI) Leo Primakov, who has to buy equipment out of his own pocket and rely on American TV shows to help him keep up to date with his science.

As she begins to investigate the disappearance if the young heiress it becomes apparent that people are trying to steer her away. From gentle suggestions from at first her husband, and her boss, to outright threats by officers of the FSB, the successors of the dreaded KGB, and no less ruthless and corrupt.

Natalya’s investigations lead her to start to suspect those nearest to her, but are they trying to support her or scupper her efforts. Is Mikhail corrupt or worse.

There is a lovely line in the book where Natalya tells her husband “women hate the lie more than what it conceals” This is the whole premise of the book. Natalya is straight, and she hates people who aren’t. That means she is going to find out who took the missing heiress; and hopefully find her alive whilst keeping herself alive.

If you like your books fast-paced, gritty, and realistic this book is definitely for you.

Pages: 258
Publisher: Mirror Books

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Thank you Netgalley , Mirror Books and G.D. Anson for the eARC.
What a great book this is, I loved it!
Captain Natalya Evanova is a very appealing character, honest and steadfast in a society that's anything but. She is looking into the case of a missing young Swedish student and when the burned body of a female is found, it's believed to be her. The girl's father is a ultra rich businessman, but difficult to reach and mostly tight lipped when interviewed. He's obviously very upset, but Natalya is suspicious of him; she believes he's being less than truthful.
Navigating the police hierarchy and the shadowy world of the Russian secret service, her life is in danger and her husband, also with the police, pleads with her to let it go. He fears for her and his son. Even though his son is her stepson, she loves him dearly and it's a tough choice for her to make. However, she's determined to find out what happened to the girl, despite being warned and obviously shadowed by some very scary characters.
It's an excellent mystery with lots of action and a surprising ending. What I loved most though is the description of life in Russia under Putin; the tightrope many have to walk to live normal lives under a schizophrenic regime. I've always been fascinated by St. Petersburg and love that the book takes place there.
It seems this is the first in the series, which I'm very excited about. We need more fiction set in Russia!
Highly recommended!

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5 stars

This is a first rate debut thriller/mystery. It is very well written and plotted. It was both atmospheric and describes today’s Russia very well. I am attracted to all things Russian, so it was a delight for me to read this wonderful novel. I liked the relationship between policewoman Captain Natalya Ivanova and her husband, as well as with her step son Anton. It seems the problems with politics and rank are endemic to all police forces, not just our own. I truly enjoyed it. I predict great things for G. G. Abson. Keep writing!!

I want to thank NetGalley and Mirror books for forwarding to me a copy of this most great debut thriller for me to read and enjoy.

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Superb premier of a great new series! Story is engrossing with plot twists.

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Thank you NetGalley for this book.

The main reason I wanted to read this book was because the setting is St. Petersburg. I’ve visited this beautiful city last July (although not exactly during the White Nights). I always wanted to visit the Hermitage (since I was 14…) and I wasn’t disappointed.
It is so much more fun to read a book where the setting is a little familiair. I know how it feels to sit on the small beach next to the Peter and Paul Fortress. I’ve walked the mighty bridges and had lunch at Teremok, went to the opera in the Mariinsky Theatre. I took the bus, not the metro, but this was mainly because during my visit to Moskou in 2015 I’ve seen so much of the metro already. But I preferred walking, sometimes more than 10 kilometers a day, to see the city, shop on Nevsky Prospekt and meet the (often very friendly) people.
But unlike Natalya, I didn’t have to worry about bribing officials. I didn’t have to worry about my job, or the FSB, of deal with nasty politicians. I was a tourist. Natalya, having lived in Germany for a few years, clearly sees the difference between that country and hers. But she is fiercely loyal to her job and above all, to her husband with whom she works in the same station. She knows how to give in when necessary and do something completely different than people expect her to do.
The story is well-plotted and even better written. This a debut? I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’m very jealous at this author 😉. I’ve read the book in just over a day because I couldn’t put it down. I’m also very much looking forward tot he next book in the series because Natalya and her husband are very interesting characters I hope to read more about – maybe a murder in the Hermitage? Or the theatre? What will happen to Nataly and Mikhail after unraveling this nasty case, and what will happen to all the other people we just met in this book?

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the voice of woman trapped in fear, with nothing but guts of steel to save her. What a powerful story with a bold and engaging protagonist. The backdrop of Mother Russia in the opening dangers of winter add to an engaging start. Well worth a read.

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Modern day St. Petersburg, Russia. A Swedish student, Zena, is reported missing after a night of drinking. The case goes to police Captain Natalya Ivanova, an honest cop caught in the middle of a society ripe with bribes. Normally, she gets domestic cases so this one has the potential to be big. Both for her and for her police colonel husband who is in line to be head of the force.

The investigation goes slowly until they learn her Swedish father’s identity. He is a rich industrialist. And as might be expected, he has a few secrets he is not terribly excited to divulge about himself, Zena, their history, and a connection with Russian organized crime.

When the FSB enters the game, political pressures enter the arena that attempt to protect the city’s economic impact if the whole story becomes public. Despite external pressures, all Captain Ivanova wants is to do right by Zena, politics be damned.

This is the first in a series following Captain Ivnaova and it is a series to be reckoned with. Anyone who loves those dark mysteries set in Scandinavia will be quite taken by Abson’s heroine. The pacing is excellent and the mood is elegantly nuanced. Only bad thing is the wait for the next episode.

One of my favorite procedurals with a female lead set overseas was the Saudi trilogy by Zoe Ferraris. If the next two are as unique and satisfying as this, Abson place beside Ferraris will be well earned.

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Quite superb police thriller set in St.Petersburg with beautifully atmospheric plotting. A missing girl believed kidnapped then dead is at the centre of the mystery involving the mafia,FSB,Swedish big business plus seemingly corrupt police officers all come together with a splendid heroine in a convoluted plot that never relents. Excellent stuff and I hope there will be more!

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A wonderful mystery/thriller and first in a series set in St. Petersburg, Russia (present day). Since I have never been to Russia, I assume that the detailed description of the place and the people are accurate. I will admit that it all seemed very believable with the characters and the mystery.

I will definitely continue with this series.

My thanks to netgalley and Mirror Books for this advanced readers copy.

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Ienjoyed reading this book and became totally involved in the story. Would recommend this as a different approach to police behaviour.

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A very dark book featuring an honest police officer in Russia, trying to do her work despite the totally corrupted and dangerous system, where anyone who dares challenge the powers that be are at grace risk of losing their job or being killed. I enjoyed the book but would have liked a bit more character development.

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Motherland by G D Abson is the first novel in the Natalya Ivanova thriller series.
Set in St Petersburg, Captain Natalya Ivanova has been asked to investigate the adoptive missing daughter of a wealthy Swedish business man. As it has been under 48 hours Natalya doesn’t yet think that it’s a case of her being kidnapped of murdered, but as she is a student she has just gone away with some friends, until a body turns up. Things start to get serious for Natalya and case intensifies and with start of the hunt for her killer.
The story also tells of her relationship with her boss who is her husband Mikael and the corruption that goes on in the police force and the KGB. I thought that this was well written and accurate presentation of life in Russia. I liked the character of Natalya. She seemed to be the only honest person in all of the police force.
Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book.

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I was so glad to see this was going to be part of a series. At first it was a bit difficult to understand all the names and nicknames of all the characters and I definitely did not know how to pronounce them. 

After a bit I just gave in and started using their nicknames which I do with my Russian friends anyway. I may have been at a loss with the names, but the core story is relatable in any language and I was eager to hear about life in Russia and what the police are like there. 

This is a fast paced police thriller that just felt real. The author's writing style flowed easily from page to page while I bit my lip and held on for the ride. I can't wait to see what come next for the detective and her family. I enjoyed meeting them all! Even the bad ones!

Miller Press   December 2017   NetGalley Reviews

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Although a typical storyline from Russia - corruption and murder, it was a good book and kept me interested.

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I loved this book. Great story, great characters and interesting back drop and setting. I've no idea of the portrayal of the Russian police system is accurate but it's works for this reader. I'd love to see more of Natalya Ivanova.

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This is an absolute corker of a crime fiction thriller debut from the gifted Abson set in Putin's contemporary Russia, a fearsome kleptocratic, scary and lawless nation. It is the first in the Captain Natalya Ivanova series located in beautiful and historic St Petersburg. Ivanova works in the thankless area of domestic abuse at the Criminal Investigations Directorate. She is married to cop, Mikhail, a Major, and loves her stepson, Anton, irrespective of how troublesome he can be. She finds herself investigating the disappearance of student Zena Dahl, the adopted Swedish daughter of Thorsen Dahl, a billionaire. Aware of the political repercussions of not doing anything, Ivanova's boss, Colonel Vasiliev makes her the lead investigator of a complex case where nothing is as seems.

Ivanova is faced with numerous obstacles in the case, including menacing interference from the FSB, the contemporary version of the old KGB. On top of that, Dostoynov, the new man at the Directorate, ex-FSB, and he is up against Mikhail in the fight for promotion. If Mikhail wins, Natalya will have to leave the unit due to their personal relationship. In the meantime, Natalya begins to have serious personal concerns about Mikhail, how far can she trust him? There is the presence of the mafia and gangsters, and Yulia, Zena's best and only friend goes missing. When the case appears to be solved, Ivanova is not so certain. Despite being warned off to stay away from the case, Ivanova is not a woman to give up, besides she wants justice for Zena. There are familial secrets and deception galore in every corner of the case. Natalya has no idea how heavy the price she pays will be, as ruthless and powerful forces threaten both her and her family.

Abson's research on Russia is impressive and shines throughout this outstanding novel. The highlights of the story are Abson's skills in characterisation and the relationships portrayed between Natalya, her colleagues and her family; Ivanova is a wonderful charismatic central lead, full of warmth, wit, having to negotiate the nightmare of the FSB and their outrageous demands. Ivanova's relationships, with her colleagues such as Sergeant Rogov and her family are a joy to behold. Abson gives us an insightful glimpse of the different policing and security services institutions and the deadly political machinations that take place under Putin. Russia is a place where every palm has to be greased, where a meritocracy is a elusive concept, and those in charge abuse their powers with impunity. This is a fantastic atmospheric read which I strongly urge others to read. Highly recommended. Many thanks to Mirror Books for an ARC.

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***ARC provided by author for honest review***

Motherland by GD Abson is a gripping mystery/thriller set in Piter (as St Petersburg is known colloquially). Natalya Ivanova is a Senior Detective, who mostly deals with "social crimes", when she is called away from yet another domestic violence call that is unlikely to be prosecuted to check on the welfare of a rich, foreign university student who hasn't been heard from in a few days.

Right away Natalya believes there is more to Zena Dahl's disappearance than just a party girl gone awry. Now how to keep the case and not have it fall victim to the corruption that is rife in the police agencies.

The writing is descriptive and face-paced. It took me a few chapters to get into the rhythm of the book, because the names and places are unfamiliar. I wasn't even sure how to pronounce the names in my own head and I'm sure most of what I came up with was wrong, but once I got over that it was a great read. The characters are rich and well-developed. The story is compelling and makes you wonder if this is really what life in modern Russia is like.

4 stars

**Review by Heather, Late Night Reviewer for Up All Night W/ Books**

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Natalya Ivanova Thriller #1.

Set in contemporary St Petersburg. When the daughter of Swedish billionaire goes missing after a night out with a friend, Captain Natayla Ivanova is assigned the case. But nothing is straightforward as it seems.

Captain Natalya Ivanova has been taken off the domestic abuse case she was investigating to investigate the disappearance of a missing teenager. As it's not yet been 48 hours since the teenager has been missing, Natalya does not think that she's been kidnapped, she thinks she's just a student who has went away with her friends. But then a body turns up and things get serious as the hunt for the killer begins. This is a well written debut novel. It's fast pace, gripping and a very tense storyline kept me on the edge of my seat. I could not put this book down. A very promising start to a new series.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Mirror Books and the author G. D. Abson for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Motherland – what a fabulous read! I predict this will be a hit. This is the debut thriller from G D Abson, set in present day St Petersburg, Russia.

Abson takes us on a dark journey, as we follow the investigation into the disappearance of a missing teenage girl. We get to know Captain Natalya Ivanova and her world. She works in the Criminal Investigations Directorate, on the domestic abuse cases, in St Petersburg. Her husband Mikhail is a higher rank in the police and best friends with her deputy officer, Sargeant Rogov. Unusually Natalya is asked to look into the disappearance of a foreign national. It becomes her case. Zena Dahl is the daughter of a Swedish billionaire, who is at university in the city. She vanished, after a night out in town.

This is present day Russia, with the FSB (the Federal Security Service) working in the background. For those of you a little unfamiliar with the name, it is the modern day KGB. They are always there. They are watching. One toe out of line and they know. It adds to an air of suspicion. There is a lack of trust everywhere. We see this in Natalya, when she thinks her husband is keeping secrets from her. The FSB make an appearance, attempting to stop Natalya and close down her case. Natalya wants answers. She needs to know what happened to Zena, no matter where it takes her.

Abson gives us some fascinating background into the culture of modern day Russia. We really get a sense of life, with its contradictions and complexities. Imagine having to bribe an official to get into university or to be at the front of the queue for medical treatment. Corruption and bribery are a part of life. You can’t get on in life, without the money to bribe someone or other. Young people are conscripted to serve in the army. Domestic abuse seems to be treated lightly. The perpetrators are just allowed to get on with it. And in the case of forensics, Russia seems to be decades behind the rest of the world. They don’t seem to have the correct equipment, to preserve the crime scene.

All in all, Motherland was superb. It does not feel like a debut novel. It is written with confidence and clarity. It is dark and thrilling. Natalya is a remarkable character, who is prepared to challenge authority and do what is right. She is the anomaly, in a corrupt system. Fans of David Young, Tom Rob Smith and anyone with an interest in contemporary Russia seek out this book. You won’t be disappointed.

Highly recommended

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I requested this book because it takes place in St. Petersburg, Russia and I always like to read mysteries that take place somewhere different. Abson perfectly captures the feel of Putin’s Russia, the bribes, the chauvinism, the drinking, not to mention St. Petersburg during the White Nights. It drew me in from the very beginning. I mean, imagine a police force that requires its officers to take a breathalyzer test before giving them a set of car keys.

Natalya Ivanova is a captain in the Criminal Investigations Directorate, handling domestic violence crimes, which in itself is interesting because “There wasn’t an offence of domestic violence in the Criminal Code. Worse, a bill had been recently introduced in the Duma to downgrade assaults within the family to an administrative crime”.

She’s handed a missing persons case, a rich Swedish girl disappears after a night out clubbing with a friend. “A missing person, she thought, was a puzzle with a hundred different combinations and only one resolution.” This is a well thought out mystery. Fast paced, yet detailed. Abson keeps the tension going throughout. It’s not an easy read. There are lots of moving parts to keep you fixated. It demands your attention.

Natalya is a well defined, three dimensional character. She’s facing a lot of tough choices, some of which could lead to her death. The FSB, the successor to the KGB, figures prominently in this story. Given their current status in the news lately with the poisonings of Putin’s critics, this adds another dimension to the story.

I’m hoping the author follows through with a second book in the series.

My Thanks to netgalley and Mirror Books for an advance copy of this mystery.

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3.5 Stars

This is an International Crime Thriller set in St. Petersburg in Russia, featuring Captain Natalya Ivanova.

The Captain is an intriguing character, she is very dedicated, willing to do whatever it takes to bring justice to the victims of crime. Her normal work area is in domestic violence, but because a prominent family has reported the disappearance of their daughter, Natalya is called in to investigate.

The powers that be want a quick result and the family wants their daughter back, but there are twists and turns that seem hellbent on keeping secrets hidden and lies covered up.

There is strong character development and the story premise is a good one. I felt the start was very slow but it did get faster paced as the story went on. The suspense is highly palpable in places and it all leads to a surprising, dramatic conclusion.

Many thanks to the author / Mirror Books / Netgalley for the digital copy of this debut novel. Opinions expressed here are unbiased and entirely my own.

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I seem to be in the minority about this book. I found I just couldn't fully engage in the story. I can see how it pulls others in, it's set in an interesting time in Russian history (present day) and has a lot of thrill aspects to it but it just didn't grab me enough to want to continue on in the series. I completely appreciate the fact that this thriller does not involve any love stories on the side between the cops, usually with a leading lady there is usually a love interest...ugh. Thank you, GD Abson! I also think that had I been in a different mood, I might have enjoyed it more. It has all the features I normally enjoy: set in Russia, thrills, a woman cop and no love interests. As most seem to really love it, I would recommend giving it a try if you like these things and see for yourself.

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Motherland is a procedural crime novel set in modern-day St. Petersburg. Well written and fast-paced, it is a mystery that illustrates how corruption, bribery, and bigotry run rampant in this Russian town. Captain Natalya Ivanova must navigate through all this to find a missing girl. The author is adept at making the reader truly feel all the frustration and strict obstacles the detective faces. A great read, and hopefully this isn’t the only book starring Natalya.

*I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

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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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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 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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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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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