Playing around? A Game of Soldiers, Stephen Miller (2006)

A Game of Soldiers ,the debut novel of Canada- based scriptwriter and actor Stephen Miller is a superb historical thriller. Set in the Russia of 1913 it presents a believable, if conspiracy-based twist to the outbreak of the Great War. But then my knowledge of Russian society at that time is fairly limited, and doubtless someone more versed in the setting than I am would be able to pick up on any historical inaccuracies.

The protagonist is a government agent named Pyotr Ryzkhov, who works amidst the corrupt society of St Petersburg, keeping his head down and doing his best not to attract the wrong kind of attention. He fails in this aim when he is prompted to question the perfunctory investigation into and cover up of the murder of a child prostitute. As he starts to dig, those involved seem to be more and more influential until they include the Minister of Justice himself. Another murder then leads him to Serbia and involvement in the event at Sarajevo in June 1914.

This was a great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. In Ryzkhov Miller has created a sympathetic character – a man struggling to balance pragmatism with idealism, and whose failure threatens his life. I was interested to see that Miller is currently working on a sequel set after the war; I will certainly get hold of it when it comes out.

I was surprised not to find much in the way of reviews online but an expanded synopsis is available from the publisher.

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5 responses to “Playing around? A Game of Soldiers, Stephen Miller (2006)

  1. Sounds like a great read there Cas!
    I visited the site and was not overly impressed by HarperCollins’ efforts to sell me the book! Seems a shame with such a positive review!

  2. It was a great read. I only got hold of it because I work in a library and get to see all the new books as they come in. If I really like something I usually go and buy it later, for re-reading.

    I wasn’t frantically impressed with the publisher’s marketing on this either, which is a pity as there is a lot they could have done.

  3. Stephen Miller

    Hey, guys – thanks for the positive review and all the support. Sometimes the writer feels way out on the distant end of things, with no influence about marketing or publicity, and so it’s nice to find that somebody has actually found the book and cares enough to tell their friends. Yes, there is a sequel, I’ve finished the first draft and am working on the publishers notes. Set in the summer-fall of 1918. Ryzhkov returns. Thanks again.
    Steve

  4. I dragged this along on a vacation and still have a third to go, dammit.

    I am greatly heartened to hear that there is a sequel. I don’t actually want it to end, and that is the greatest compliment I can make to an author.

    Well done.

  5. Paul Corrigan - New Zealand

    I’m still reading this. I have to say, Stephen, that I nearly returned it to the library because I was having trouble following the story when the Justice Ministry people got involved. I decided to persevere. Your account of the happenings at Sarajevo is riveting, mixing fact and fiction well. Well done. Now I’m at where Pyotr and the executioner have gone their separate ways. I like a good conspiracy theory.
    Cheers
    – Paul

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