In June 1812, Napoleon's massive grande armée began its invasion of Russia, and the imperial Russian army, massively outnumbered and out maneuvered, was forced to retreat. But a handful of Russian officers — veterans of Borodino — are charged with trying to slow the enemy's inexorable march on Moscow. Helping them is a band of mercenaries from the outermost fringes of Christian Europe, known as the Oprichniki — twelve in number — who arrive amidst rumours of plague travelling west from the Black Sea. Preferring to work alone, and at night, the twelve prove brutally, shockingly, effective against the French.
But one amongst the Russians, Aleksei Ivanovich Danilov, is unnerved by the Oprichniki's ruthlessness. As he comes to understand the horrific nature of these strangers, he wonders at the nightmare they've unleashed in their midst.
Twelve is envisaged as the first in a quintet of novels which span Russian history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, ending on the Eastern Front of World War I on the eve of the Russian Revolution. Only one of the characters of Twelve makes it to the final novel - but which one?
The second novel of the quintet, entitled Thirteen Years Later is in the final stages of development. It is set at the end of the reign of Tsar Alexander, in 1825, during the lead up to the December Revolution, when Aleksei, now a senior officer, receives a message from beyond the grave...
The third instalment of the series, now commissioned by Transworld, is set during the Crimean War, when Tamara Valentinovna Lavrova, an officer in Tsar Nicholas I's secret police, discovers a new clue to a series of ancient Moscow murders.
Some people place this story in the town of Atkarsk, others in Volsk, but in most versions it’s Uryupin and so that is where we will keep it. All accounts agree that the events occurred sometime in the early years of the reign of the great Tsar Pyetr and all agree that the town in question was infested by a plague of rats...