THE LEONARDO GULAG by Kevin Doherty

From the publisher:

A journey into the sinister heart of Stalin’s regime of terror, where paranoia reigns and no one is safe

Stalin’s Russia, 1950. Brilliant young artist Pasha Kalmenov is arrested and sent without trial to a forced-labor camp in the Arctic gulag. This is a camp like no other. Although conditions are harsh and degrading, the prisoners are not to be worked to death in a coal mine or on a construction project. Their task is to forge the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. There is a high price to be paid for failing to reach the required standard of perfection; particularly as the camp commandant has his own secret agenda. When the executions begin, Pasha realizes that only his artistic talent can protect him. But for how long? Worse horrors are to come—if he survives them, will life still be worth living?

The Leonardo Gulag journeys to the sinister heart of Stalin’s regime of terror, where paranoia reigns and no one is safe, and in which the whims of one man determine the fate of millions. Ultimately, the novel presents a moving portrait of the indomitability of the human spirit.

Perfect for fans who love the artistry of Daniel Silva and the passion of Greg Iles


The Russian revolution in 1917 rid the Soviet Union of an oppressive monarchy but plunged it into a succession of despots with no regard for human life or human dignity. Doherty’s novel is set during the later period of Josef Stalin’s life and into the reign of Nikita Khrushchev.   

Pasha Kalmenov is a young man coming of age during this period. Due to his extreme poverty, he lives with his mother in a small apartment and attempts to eke out a living as best as he can. He has one talent which sets him apart from others of his age. His artistic ability is above and beyond that of most of his generation. Apparently, Stalin knew of this talent and had Pasha arrested on no specific charges. With no charges read nor a trial in a court of law, he is sent to the frozen tundra of the Gulag. Expecting to be sentenced to the slave labor of working in a mine he instead becomes part of a group of talented artists that are assigned to copying the drawings of Leonardo DaVinci. While the life styles of the group engaged in this work are quite a bit above the normal existence of the main body of prisoners there are harsh penalties for not meeting the standards set by those supervising his group.     

Pasha meets and befriends several people working in his group comprising both men and women. They are close and in some cases develop romances amidst the horrors they undergo on a daily basis. The death of Stalin finally generates changes in the prisoners’ lives and it is the events stemming from the shift in the regime that leads to an ending that is very well plotted and written.       

Doherty employs a writing style that is a matter of fact and a bit blasé which makes the horrors described even more horrific. The reader’s reaction will be a wonderment as to how human beings can go through the events that they undoubtedly did and still carry on. A fascinating novel and one that will certainly cause the author’s next books to be eagerly expected and bought as soon as available.

1/2021 Paul Lane

The Leonardo Gulag by Kevin Doherty. Oceanview Publishing (March 3, 2020). ISBN: 978-1608093816. 320 pages.

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