I hadn't read the first novel but found this Russian thriller odd, unbalanced but compulsive. Some of the settings are surreal - check out the strange crematorium in Chechnya where our protaganist works under cover to find his penguin!
Quickening his pace, cutting corners, he made towards the cemetery church, dodging headstones and railings, stumbling, literally, over names and dates with the church hovering, mirage-fashion, inaccessible, unattainable - like happiness after death .... And for one brief moment a small black-and-white something went waddling in with them. His heart missed a beat. Misha! Yes, there had to be a penguin!