Volk's Game: A Novel

Brent Ghelfi

Henry Holt and Co,  June 2007

The explosive debut introducing Russian gangster Alexei Volkovoy -- not since Robert Ludlum's Jason Bourne has a hero shifted so effortlessly between hunter and hunted

A firefight reverberates through Moscow's dark, rain-soaked streets; shattered glass and screams echo in the air. In the lawless ways of Russia's capital city, the gunmen melt away into the night. Two men are dead, the targets not what they seem.

A shadowy figure lopes along the riverbank outside the Kremlin walls. Known to all as Volk, a battle-hardened veteran of Russia's brutal war in Chechnya, he prowls Moscow's grim alleyways, a knife concealed in his prosthetic foot at all times.

As both a major player in the black market and a covert agent for the Russian military, Volk serves two masters: Maxim, a psychotic Azeri mafia kingpin with hordes of loyal informers; and a man known only as the General, to whom Volk is mysteriously indebted. By his side is Valya, an exotic beauty charged with protecting her lover from his unsavory associates. Valya is the most dangerous weapon in Volk's arsenal.

Together they are commissioned to steal a long-lost da Vinci painting called Leda and the Swan from St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum. Leda's ethereal radiance is undeniably captivating and incalculably dangerous. Volk must choose which powerful man he will betray in order to escape with the painting -- and with his life.

With the high-octane rush and vivid intensity of a feature film, Volk's Game delivers at every turn, announcing Alexei Volkovoy as the boldest hero of a new generation.

hardcover | ISBN: 9780805082548 | Publication Date: June 2007

"Brent Ghelfi writes like Dostoevsky's hooligan great-grandson on speed. Volk is hard, fast, and a truly excellent debut. Highly recommended."
--Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author of The Hard Way

Volk’s Game is no ordinary thriller: it’s a 500-horsepower Mercedes blasting through the Moscow night. Alexei Volkovoy is the most original thriller character to come down the Russian pike since Arkady Renko, yet he inhabits a Russia that Renko might have difficulty surviving. Volk moves through this frenetically paced novel like an avenging angel in the employ of both God and Satan. Brent Ghelfi’s insights are rapier-sharp, and his prose seems to illuminate the page. Be glad, because you’ll be finishing this novel at four a.m. I’m ready to read the next installment NOW.”
--Greg Iles, New York Times bestselling author of Turning Angel

"Everything we look for when we read -- freshness of setting, intriguing characters, vivid prose, new understandings -- is well and truly here. Brent Ghelfi may not know Vincente Huidobro’s work, but in his own he does exactly what that poet counseled: Invent new worlds, and be careful what you say."
--James Sallis, author of Drive

"Hypnotically suspenseful and ballistic paced, Volk’s Game by Brent Ghelfi is a fascinating journey into the dark world of international intrigue. From a plot full of surprises to crackling dialogue and often lyrical prose, this masterful debut novel belongs on every thriller-lover's bookshelf."
--Gayle Lynds, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Spymaster

"It's rare to find a thriller this fast paced and breathlessly dangerous that is also beautifully written. Ghelfi hits as hard as his hero Volk. Like staring down the barrel of a Sig-Sauer, you can't look away from Volk's Game."
--David L. Robbins, author of The Assassin’s Gallery

"Volk’s Game, a debut thriller, introduces Alexei Volkovoy, a Russian gangster, veteran of Russia’s war in Chechnya, and a covert agent for the Russian military. Dark, intense and brutal, Volk is also filled with compassion for veterans and the widows of those who didn’t make it home to Mother Russia. Volk and his partner Valya are commissioned to steal a long-lost Da Vinci painting and both the Mafia kingpin he answers to and the General he is curiously indebted to wish to possess the painting. Who he decides to betray will determine whether he escapes with the painting and his life. Non stop action from start to finish with Volk both the hunter and the hunted.

"The portrait Ghelfi paints of contemporary Moscow is bleak and dismal, made more so when you compare it to the radiance of the painting at the center of this story -- Leda and the Swan; this is definitely a book of contrasts from start to finish and also a commentary on the hidden costs of the war in Chechnya. Not for the faint of heart but the beauty of Ghelfi’s prose makes this a must read book. The final paragraph is exquisite and if I hadn’t already been captivated by this book that alone would have made the read worthwhile. And how perfect an answer to the question posed in the first sentence of this extraordinary book -- there is so much to appreciate inside the circle that is Volk’s Game."
--Seattle Mystery Bookshop

"Former attorney Ghelfi's impressive debut introduces a compelling antihero, Alekei "Volk" Volkovoy. A brutal killer maimed in Russia's war against Chechnya, Volk leads two lives-one as a powerful gangster with a hand in virtually all underworld rackets, the other as a covert military operative. When Volk gets the chance to steal a previously unknown Da Vinci painting, Leda and the Swan, which has been concealed beneath another painting in a St. Petersburg museum, Volk enlists the aid of Valya, a beautiful assassin, in plotting the theft. After an ostensible ally sabotages the operation, Volk seeks vengeance. The twists and turns accumulate at an almost dizzying pace, building to a satisfactory resolution. Frederick Forysth fans will appreciate the crisp writing. This thriller could mark the start of a successful long-running series."
--Publishers Weekly