After I’d completed ‘Murder in the Baltic Coast Hotel’, I began to wonder whether I couldn’t attempt something similar in regard to a forthcoming river cruise between Moscow and St Petersburg. I thought I could set it in 1996, a year later, so that if Nick and Rosemary needed to be fairly active, they’d still be in sufficiently good physical shape to do so. It seemed to me that such cruises – with perhaps 120-150 passengers – would be small enough to reduce the suspects to a manageable number. It’d be an interesting challenge to imagine what such a cruise would’ve been like 17 years before we enjoyed ours. I apologise in advance for any anachronisms where my imagination has failed to cover the gap in time well enough. I am unaware whether there is or has been a ship cruising the Russian waterways called “Georgi Zhukov”. I certainly do not intend to refer to it, if it exists or existed.
Inevitably – given that Nick and Rosemary spent much of their careers looking at the world with fairly sceptical eyes – the story contains descriptions of the cruise experience which aren’t positive. I should therefore make clear that other than the route and some of the descriptions of the structure of a cruise ship, I am not referring to my experience with Viking River Cruises in 2013, where Vanessa and I experienced a highly enjoyable and illuminating experience. Nor do I refer to any of the passengers – either as individuals or as a group – who were on our cruise.
I have also used various names and organisations. I should wish to make clear than none of these are intended to refer to any person or organisation live, dead or defunct. Though I believe I’ve located the POW camp 276 in roughly the right place, I have no such illusions about camp 44 near Mezen by the White Sea. The existence, number and location of this camp have come entirely from my imagination.
I would also like to thank Vanessa, as usual, for her love, tolerance and support while I’ve been writing this – also Jo and Kat for their encouragement and baby Josh for remaining enthusiastic throughout.
Richard Hernaman Allen 19 October 2013