A detective is caught in bigger issues as he tries to solve the case of an actress's murder.Captain Alexei Korolev is living in Moscow and struggling with his private life when he is awakened by a knock in the wee hours of the day. He has been waiting for this day for a long time. However, what surprises him is that instead of being shipped to Siberia, he is sent off to Ukraine — in style. Time is of the essence and the detective finds himself on an aeroplane for the first time. Is he off the hook?An actress filming The Bloody Meadow has been found hanging in an apparent suicide. She was no ordinary actress but a good citizen linked to party bigwigs. The powers that be want damage control. So Korolev embarks on a mission that takes him through the flat landscape of Odessa and battered villages, which remind him of his combat days.The crime scene, a living room in an old manor house at an agricultural institute, is cleaned (of any fingerprints) to such an extent that even the seasoned homicide detective is unnerved. When a surprising substance is found in the dead girl's body, Korolev's quest to find the truth puts him on track for a deadly collision. He finds himself up against corrupt party officials, local militia, film stars and highly organised criminals who will do anything to clear any obstacles in their way. The detective wants out but dares not voice such concerns because his life hangs in the balance.The Bloody Meadow really takes off when the thieves uncover evidence of shady dealings involving arms that could land in the hands of enemies of the state. Korolev, with the help of a local detective, must solve the murder and cover up the potentially damaging scandal.Filled with chilling twists and turns, The Bloody Meadow is another masterpiece from Ryan, whose first book, The Holy Thief, is also set in 1930s Russia. Though mysteries set in this period abound, The Bloody Meadow holds its own. Ryan spins a gripping tale to illuminate the burning issues of the day: cheap labour brought in from villages to work in factories and living in squalid conditions, the plight of children in orphanages, the widening gap between the "haves" and "have-nots", and arbitrary arrests for sabotage.There is paranoia and no one is to be trusted — not even family members. People are guarded in their speech because not using politically correct terms — for instance, referring to Leningrad as St Petersburg — could land them in the gulag.The history of Russia is beautifully captured, including the Civil War and atrocities committed by the NKVD in the name of quashing counter-revolutionaries. For an Irish writer to capture the pulse of the Soviet empire like a Muscovite is commendable and testament to the extensive research Ryan conducted.The title of the book, which is also the title of the film being shot, gives away the game — but that is not a bad thing, as Ryan's engrossing writing style ensures that readers get their dose of scary moments. Yes, it is a jungle out there in which nature is red in tooth and claw. There are trigger-happy monsters prowling the pages, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. In all this the author has a great sense of place and keeps reminding readers where they are by throwing in lines about the Russian cold weather.With its pacy style, The Bloody Meadow is a high-speed thriller that keeps you turning pages until the end. I could have read the 308-pager in one sitting had it not been for the Russian names that I had a hard time remembering. However, the list of key characters and their roles that the author has thoughtfully provided at the beginning of the book proved helpful. The Bloody Meadow is a well-crafted story with believable characters.