The Matryoshka MurdersA new thriller by Kay Williams and Eileen Wyman
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"Hello From East, the Iron Curtain is Broken"
LENINGRAD, 1991: THE BRAVE PERFORMERS OF THE LABORATORY OF EXPERIMENTAL MODELING (LEM)
When I saw this satirical "style show," I was shocked by the costumes--and the lack of costumes, the contempt for authority, the overt anger. I was afraid the actors, who skewered powerful Russian leaders, might be arrested. It was a dangerous time, January 1991, just a few months before the Soviet Union broke apart. Hardliners were crying out for a return to Stalinism.
I think these fearless activists were a forerunner of today’s Pussy Riot, a feminist rock protest group, three of whose members were jailed by Russian officials in 2012 for their “hooliganism” or heresy. Pussy Riot’s themes are much the same as the Laboratory of Experimental Modeling’s were over 20 years ago: feminism, LGBT rights, and opposition to the policies of political leaders.
Warning: This show has partial nudity. For mature audiences.
About the Book
KATE HENNESSEY HAS ARRIVED with colleagues in January, 1991 to take part in Leningrad’s Second International Documentary Festival. The USSR is in severe economic and political crisis. Crime is rampant, shelves are bare. Kate stumbles into an “illegal meeting” of women and audiotapes their descriptions of the harshness of their lives as well as their criticisms of current leaders. There, Sveta, age 17, confides to her that she is afraid she will be killed. Kate offers to help, and is swept up in a series of frightening events, beginning with Kate’s and Sveta’s abduction by Kolya, a drunken cab driver, to a cemetery on the outskirts of Leningrad. Kate is robbed of earrings her lover Gilly has given her, then left to die in the bitter cold. She makes it to a nearby inn, believing that Sveta also escaped.
Was the abduction random, part of the escalating crime wave? Was it meant for Sveta who feared for her life? Or was Kate herself the target?
She might be under scrutiny, Kate decides, because when she first arrived, she inadvertently videotaped an officer with a scarred face talking with a baby-faced civilian in a gray designer suit in the hotel bar. Since then a red-haired soldier—one of the many soldiers roaming the hotel—seems to be following her. Her guide book warns, No pictures allowed of the military.
Kate’s more worried about the fight that she and Gilly had just before she left the U.S., and she throws herself into gathering more footage, her “Letters from Leningrad” for her NYC course in guerrilla filmmaking.
As rumors circulate of an impending coup, Kate discovers that Sveta is missing and tapes a video interview of Sveta’s lover, 17-year-old Nadya, who has been beaten and raped by the police because she is rozovaya, pink, gay. Kate learns to her horror when she and Nadya visit the Kafé Dusha (Café Soul), a dairy bar where the "moonlight"” women socialize, that Sveta may be incarcerated in a Psychiatric Clinic for the Cure (drugs and shock therapy). Or she may be dead.
After an invasion into her hotel room while she sleeps and a near miss by a speeding convoy truck at the Palace of Pavlovsk, Kate understands that she is not a victim of Leningrad’s rising crime wave but that there is a real plot to kill her as well as to confiscate her videotapes. An attack against her as she shops along the Nevsky Prospekt and a devastating fire in the wing of her hotel force her (her videos taped to her body) to flee Leningrad with the help of new Russian friends. She is pursued by the scar-faced KGB officer and the local police who have found Sveta’s frozen body in the cemetery pond.
BACK HOME IN HER NYC APARTMENT, Kate finds that the danger overseas has come straight to her doorstep. What she discovers not only threatens her hopes for a happy future with Gilly, but everything she thought she knew about the past and present, good and evil, and the deadly price of keeping silent.