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Spotlight: Madness Treads Lightly Polina Dashkova, Translated by Marian Schwartz

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Only three people can connect a present-day murderer to a serial killer who, fourteen years ago, terrorized a small Siberian town. And one of them is already dead.

As a working mother, Lena Polyanskaya has her hands full. She’s busy caring for her two-year-old daughter, editing a successful magazine, and supporting her husband, a high-ranking colonel in counterintelligence. She doesn’t have time to play amateur detective. But when a close friend’s suspicious death is labeled a suicide, she’s determined to prove he wouldn’t have taken his own life.

As Lena digs in to her investigation, all clues point to murder—and its connection to a string of grisly cold-case homicides that stretches back to the Soviet era. When another person in her circle falls victim, Lena fears she and her family may be next. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to protect them. But will learning the truth unmask a killer…or put her and her family in even more danger?


"Moscow, March 1996

Lena Polyanskaya wrestled the stroller through the deep March slush and lumpy melting snow like a Volga boatman. The narrow street was lined with tall, hardened snowdrifts, and any speeding cars splashed the pedestrians with thick brown muck.
    Two-year-old Liza kept trying to stand up in the stroller so she could walk on her own little feet. She thought she was too big for a stroller, and anyway, there were so many interesting things to look at: sparrows and ravens making a racket as they fought over wet bread crusts, a shaggy ginger pup chasing its own tail, and a bigger little boy walking toward them, gnawing on a bright red apple.
    "Mama, Liza wants an apple, too," the little girl informed her mother seriously, standing up yet again.
    A big bag of groceries was hanging off the stroller handle, so the second Lena lifted Liza to seat her properly, the stroller tipped all the way back and the bag split open.
    "All fall down," Liza summed things up with a sigh, gazing from her mama's arms to the groceries strewn through the muck.
    "Yes, my love, all fall down. Now we'll pick it all up."
Lena had carefully set her daughter on the sidewalk and was picking the groceries out of the slush and brushing them off with her glove when she noticed someone in a blue Volvo parked across the street, watching her intently. The tinted windows reflected the snowdrifts and pedestrians, so Lena couldn't see exactly who was watching her, but she could feel that person's gaze.
    "We do make an entertaining spectacle." She grinned as she managed to reattach the bag to the stroller handle, get Liza seated, and shake the dirt off her leather gloves.
    When she turned into her own courtyard, she spotted the Volvo again. It drove by very closely, at minimum speed, as if the people in it wanted to remember exactly which door the young mother with the stroller entered.
    There were two of them--a woman behind the wheel and a man in the passenger seat. Lena didn't get a good look at them, but they got an excellent one of her.
    "Are you certain?" the woman asked quietly after the door shut behind Lena.
    "Absolutely. She's barely changed in all these years."
    "She has to be thirty-six now," the woman observed.
"And that young mama couldn't be over twenty-five. And the child's so young. You haven't mixed something up? It's been a few years after all."
    "No," the man answered firmly. "I haven't mixed anything up.""

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About the Author

Dubbed the “Russian crime queen,” Polina Dashkova is Russia’s most successful author of crime novels. She’s sold fifty million copies of her books and has thrilled readers in countries across Europe and Asia. A graduate of Moscow’s Maxim Gorky Literary Institute, she has been active as a radio and press journalist and has worked as an interpreter and translator of English literature. Her books have been translated into German, Chinese, Dutch, French, Polish, Spanish, and English.


About the Translator

Marian Schwartz translates Russian classic and contemporary fiction, history, biography, criticism, and fine art. She is the principal English translator of the works of Nina Berberova and translated the New York Times bestseller The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky, as well as classics by Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Goncharov, Yuri Olesha, and Mikhail Lermontov. Her most recent publications are Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Andrei Gelasimov’s Into the Thickening Fog, Daria Wilke’s Playing a Part, and half the stories in Mikhail Shishkin’s Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories. She is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association and the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowships, as well as prizes including the 2014 Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Russian Literature and the 2016 Soeurette Diehl Frasier Award from the Texas Institute of Letters.

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