“The past is catching up with Gulag-born, KGB-trained Turbo Vlost. His ex-wife wants him dead, the Russian mob has similar aims, and his former KGB colleagues are willing to eliminate anyone who gets close to the lethal conspiracy they thought they buried back in 1999.

Turbo was born in the Gulag and spent 20 years in the KGB (thanks to a facility for languages), much of that spying on the United States. He has yet to come to terms with the shame of his Gulag past—“the complicit victim, Stalin’s most enduring legacy,” as he puts it—which has already led to the vicious disintegration of his marriage and banishment from his only son. He has also been forced to sever ties with the man who rescued him from the camps, guided his KGB career, and served as the only father he’s ever known.

Turbo has exiled himself to New York, but the past is catching up. Hired to deal with an apparent kidnapping, he finds his client—a predatory banker—married to his ex-wife, whom he has not seen in 20 years, and who’s living under a stolen identity and quite possibly engaged in the kidnapping scheme herself. As he tries to unravel that anomaly, he discovers more threatening mysteries—a high-tech money laundry the Russian mob is determined to protect, and a plot to cover-up KGB orchestration of the 1999 bombings of four apartment buildings that killed 300 people, ignited the second Chechen War and propelled Putin to the presidency. He’s drawn back into the world of his old KGB colleagues, including the surrogate father, whose current motives are much too opaque, and the father’s natural son, a mobster, whose hostility is all too clear.” (Quoted from the author’s website).

My purpose in quoting the story summary from the author’s website wasn’t laziness as much as to make sure the details were correct. I had difficulty following the sub-plots of this story (my ignorance of Russian politics/history didn’t help matters), but I found myself rooting for the improbably named Turbo Vlost (his full name is Electrifikady Turbanevich Vlost) as he tries to find and subsequently help out the young woman who’s (not really) been kidnapped. Turbo’s one of those guys who has had a horrific childhood but makes something of himself anyway, sporting a melancholic sense of humor on top of it. This novel is a thriller not a mystery, although there are unknowns that Turbo must figure out in order to save himself and others. Duffy is a writer who clearly has chops–his background in international consulting lends authority to the story. Some of the characters are stock, but others are truly memorable, especially U. S. Attorney for the Southern District, Victoria Millenuits. She’s tough, beautiful and a perfect match for Turbo. The parrot Pig Pen, however, was too cute by half and totally unbelievable.

One’s taste in mysteries and thrillers is pretty subjective. I liked Last to Fold for the characters and their backgrounds (I hope Turbo makes future appearances–I would read Duffy again), but I found parts of the story too convoluted to follow, which made sections of the book incomprehensible. On a scale of 1 to 10, Last to Fold rates a 6.

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