The Man Who Walked Like a Bear

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE MAN WHO WALKED LIKE A BEAR, the sixth of the Porfiry Rostnikov novels, comes on the heels of the detective’s adventures in A COLD RED SUNRISE, which won the 1989 Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year. In every way, this new book meets the reader’s expectations of adventure, cunning, and intrigue. Characterizations, plot, and the ending twist are superbly executed.

Porfiry Petrovich Rostnikov, modeling himself on the CRIME AND PUNISHMENT character he was named after, had always wanted to be a policeman. For many years he and his two colleagues, Tkach and Karpo, handled important cases in the procurator general’s office. Now, after one too many conflicts with the KGB, the three men are assigned as staff to a mostly ceremonial department. Fortunately, such a put-down has had no noticeable effect on Rostnikov’s spunk and determination.

Rostnikov’s wife is in the hospital, recovering from an operation for a brain tumor. The inspector is visiting her when suddenly a hairy, naked bear of a man lumbers into the room, ranting about devils that are devouring the factory and are now pursuing him. Rostnikov investigates the story and discovers the man is a mental patient at the hospital, but recently had been supervisor at a factory that was experiencing petty thefts. As a policeman, Rostnikov must follow up on this crime report. During a night-time police-sanctioned break-in, he uncovers some high- level political wrongdoing at the factory. Reporting it is likely to bring down a powerful KGB officer.

Simultaneous intrigues that keep the pace lively include kidnapping and assassination plans for a Politburo member, and a missing city bus and its driver, which the reader knows have been commandeered by terrorists. As events climax, one word comes to mind: “Brilliant!”