OFFICER JELENNSKI VERSUS THE MAFIA
Secrets Of The Volkovs by Ellie Jay is a crime thriller with a dash of science fiction that gets more unputdownable with each scene. The fast pace of this story will keep you reading past your bedtime. But to keep this review without spoilers, I don’t want to give away the cool and creepy aspects regarding the sci-fi and how it affects the characters because it’s a major part of the plot. As for organized crime, the third person omniscient narrative makes it so compelling that when the storyline introduces the Volkov family, it starts boiling like a pot of pasta’s water spilling over, sizzling on the flame. One of the best aspects was how Jay didn’t use crime tropes, so the novel felt unique and fresh. The way Ellie would shift to a scene happening while another scene was simultaneously happening kept me enthralled throughout the read, keeping me turning the pages to see how all these scenes connect.
The best part of the novel was the way the author sets up the main character, Antonin Jelennski, so you have an emotional connection to his story. Ms. Jay starts making you care about Jelennski right away in chapter one called “Family,” next she adds in Antonin’s fear of investigating the mafia, and then how his life’s plans are put on hold for his assignment so you’re compelled to read at page-turner speed as the plot unfolds.
THE MOROZ HOUSE
The initial characteristic about Antonin that sparks your emotional connection to him is his backstory showing him to be a sympathetic character because he’s one of those down-and-out protagonists who are estranged from their family and wish to be a part of another family; in Antonin’s case, he wants “to be a part of the Moroz family” (7), which is his girlfriend’s family, and she is the daughter of Antonin’s boss, the Moscow Chief of Police named Ilya Moroz. But the author doesn’t stop there, in the next paragraph she adds to the connection by having Antonin show his want of having an actual family to belong to. This display comes out when Jelennski thinks about how much he loves Ilya’s daughter, Nikolina, and how he’s gotten to know everyone since he’s been staying at the Moroz home. His want becomes apparent when he thinks to himself, “One day, they might feel like family” (7). It’s almost like the author has shown you a needy police puppy who just wants his forever home. However, it gets more undeniable when Antonin reveals he’s hiding a ring and how he’s “been planning… for a while.” (7). Not only do you want to know his girlfriend’s answer, but you also want to figure out if he gets his wish of becoming a part of the Moroz family. Then, when the chapter ends with Ilya telling Antonin that he has the perfect case for him at the police station, you can almost hear the dun-dun-duuun sound effect since the prose lets you know Antonin is excited but also taken aback by this surprise assignment (9).
JUST A REGULAR GUY
Then in the next chapter, “Preparing,” the author shows you this is not a cop character that fits into the crime tropes of the super tough badass that takes on the case all gung-ho with guns blazing. Nope. You’ll find that out on page 11 when Ilya tells Antonin about the assignment, making Antonin realize the assignment has a “slightly terrifying nature.” It’s reactions like this that let the reader know this protagonist isn’t a supercop or anything similar, making him a character readers can universally care about because he’s real. Therefore, when Ilya informs Antonin that the case results from another police department’s “suspicions about a mafia operation” (11), I was all in. And his regular guy status becomes more evident as you read on, finding out that Antonin “was a little scared” (12).
Soon after you find out Antonin’s genuine emotions regarding the assignment, Ms. Jay pulls at your heartstrings by having him think about telling his girlfriend the news. In this moment, he remembers he has to “say goodbye to her” (14), and everyone knows it’s never easy to tell your significant other news about going away indefinitely on a dangerous assignment. Then on page 16, the author adds emotion when Antonin admits to his girlfriend that it’s a mafia job, and her reaction of concern inspires him to tell her that he’s not sure what type of trouble awaits him, “But [he’s] sure [he’ll] be in [his] element.” Next, he does something that will make you fully invested in the novel’s outcome; Antonin becomes engaged to his girlfriend, but it’s also “their… goodbye” (17).
Then the author raises the stakes when Antonin arrives in a new town to begin his assignment. The setting of the third chapter, “The Mission Begins,” creates an eerily foreboding feeling as he drives through the town since the townspeople rush “from place to place, looking around suspiciously. Several glared at him as they saw him” (19). Afterwards, the eeriness intensifies when he ponders, “Either people in this city are really unfriendly, or the crime spree has had some kind of effect on the local atmosphere” (19). Then you’ll find out more details about the Volkov family, and the story becomes unputdownable.
From this point on, the story will keep you captivated by its brisk pace. Each chapter will roll into the next one. This effect by the author really comes through in chapter seven; it’s not called “The First Secret” for nothing! It’ll have you turning page after page to keep up. Then, by chapter 15, the intensity will prove why it’s called “Escaping Yaroslavl,” leaving you wanting to find out what happens next. The action-packed chapter 20 called “The Volkovs Invade” will have you wishing you didn’t have to stop reading. And it just gets better from there.
Ellie Jay makes you care about many of the other characters so you’ll also be emotionally invested in what happens to them during this thrilling read, but getting into those details could easily lead to spoilers, so it’s better if you read the book to find those out. Plus, there’s two more books! Personally, I geeked out and read the samples right after reading this novel. They’re definitely books you won’t regret adding to your reading list. Overall, this novel’s an entertaining start to The Secrets Series.
Thank you for reading our book review about Secrets Of The Volkovs by Ellie Jay. We are not affiliated with the publisher, but here’s the link to pick up a copy.
E. R. Sanchez is the author of Fried Potato Press’ first young adult thriller, Petaco Dreams, which will be released in 2024 after the rewrite, new title and cover. He also has poems and stories published online and in print. If you’d like to read his work that was published online, please click here to go to his Stories and Poetry Section.