Jon Elek, fiction publisher, bought UK and Commonwealth rights in the book and its two sequels, with plans to publish in October 2020.
City of Ghosts, set in the paranoid and oppressed world of the Soviet Union in the 1950s, weaves an intelligent web of murder and political manoeuvring during Stalin’s final years. It follows senior lieutenant Revol Rossel as he investigates the discovery of five mutilated corpses neatly laid out on a railway track outside Leningrad. Rossel – a man haunted by his own ghosts from the past – sets about piecing together fragments and clues from the murders, following the trail around a city traumatised by its collective memory, and that ultimately leads into the dark heart of the Soviet establishment.
October, 1951. The citizens of Leningrad are all too familiar with the fragility of life.
As survivors of the most brutal siege in World War Two they mourn family members lost to starvation and fighting. And on the outskirts of the city, flowers grow from those killed by Stalin’s own apparatus terror: the MGB.
But when five mutilated corpses are found arranged between three parallel railway lines, even Revol Rossel – once a Conservatoire-trained violinist, now a humble state militia-cop – is sickened by the gruesome scene.
Whether victims of the MGB or a crazed yet methodical killer, these bodies soon lead Rossel back into the dark and ruthless heart of the Soviet establishment, a place where his dreams were shattered and his ghosts barely laid to rest.
And as anyone in Leningrad will say, it’s best to forget the past… despite some people’s best efforts to drag you back with one final, haunting refrain.
Ben Creed commented: “I have always been fascinated by Russian and Soviet history, and I’m magnetically drawn to the human stories that show how people navigated the perils, terrors and absurdities of life under Stalin. I am thrilled to be in a long-term partnership with such a dynamic publisher who shares my enthusiasm for this fascinating world.”
Jon Elek added: “By any measure this is an extraordinary novel, equal parts thriller, social history and compelling personal drama. The historical detail is brilliantly captured and the murder investigation is a powerful engine, but fundamentally this is character-driven crime at its best.”
The book has been picking up traction internationally as well, having sold into Germany (Droemer), Japan (Kadokawa), Poland (Rebis) and the Netherlands (De Fontein).
Ben Creed is the pseudonym for Chris Rickaby and Barney Thompson, who met on the Curtis Brown creative writing course. Chris, from Newcastle upon Tyne, found his way into advertising as a copywriter and, after working for various agencies, started his own called Everything Different. Barney is a classically trained musician who studied under the legendary conducting professor Ilya Musin at the St Petersburg Conservatory for two years. He is fluent in Russian and is now an editor.