Book Quote:

“Standing there, I remember, I experienced the blissful sense of well-being that expats sometimes enjoy. I was a long way from things and people that I didn’t want to think about – including myself, my old self, the so-what lawyer with the so-what life I’d left behind in London. The me that you know now. I was in a place where today, every day, almost anything might happen.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody  (FEB 23, 2011)

A.D. Miller’s noir thriller is nearly impossible to put down once started. Moscow, “that city of neon lust and frenetic sin” is skillfully painted in all its contradictions and juxtapositions. It is “a strange country, Russia, with its talented sinners and occasional saint, bona fide saints that only a place of such accomplished cruelty could produce, a crazy mix of filth and glory.”  Nothing is as it seems in this book and ethics are continually stretched to the limit.

The book is written in the format of attorney Nick Platt’s recollection of his time in Moscow as he shares it with his fiancee. Now residing in London, where he is from originally, he recalls the few years he spent as a lawyer in Moscow and how they affected his life. Can his fiancée still accept him and will she still want to marry him once she hears what happened during his time in Moscow? Will she be able to understand his part in the events that unfolded and forgive him? Is he able to forgive himself or is that even important?

Nick is in Moscow during Russia’s high-flying times, where makers and shakers easily spend two hundred dollars on a massage, where everyone has a scam and you’re part of it in some way, where banks loan millions of dollars to companies on a wish and a dream. It’s a strange time in a strange country. “The Russians will do the impossible thing – the thing you think they can’t do, the thing you haven’t thought of. They will set fire to Moscow when the French are coming or poison each other in foreign cities. They will do it, and afterwards they will behave as if nothing has happened at all. And if you stay in Russia long enough, so will you.” This is Nick’s predicament. He is caught up in several complex and laborious scams and he searches within himself to see when he first turned the other way. Or did he not see anything coming and get run over by a Mack truck.

The novel begins with Nick rescuing two sisters on the metro – Masha and Katya. They are young, long-legged beauties. Nick is close to forty, feeling his age and seeing his middle expand. Masha is 24 and Katya is 20, just old enough for Nick to enjoy without feeling any guilt. He is especially fond of Masha and together they hit the night life of Moscow and begin a passionate affair; at least it is passionate for Nick. At times, Masha appears to be play-acting and going through the motions but that’s okay with Nick who daydreams about a life with her. One day, out of the blue, Masha and Katya ask Nick to help with the legal work entailed in finding their aunt Tatiana a new apartment. Nick agrees and continues with the process even when he finds out that he has been fed a lot of lies.

Nick is also involved in the legal aspects of attaining a huge loan for an oil rigging company. In order for the loan to go through, the company must have its construction completed on time, a certain amount of capital needs to be generated in the future, and of course, there is that unending stack of Russian paperwork and workers that need to be bribed. There’s a little problem when the surveyor for the project disappears for a few days and then comes back with a report that everything is clean as a whistle. Then he disappears again. Who can say that this means anything at all? Who can say that it doesn’t?

Nick finds himself in a conundrum everywhere he turns. He tries on different realities for size and stretches his ethics like a rubber band. He enters a world where the lure of sin is almost impossible to resist. In Russia, do as the Russians do – but he is not Russian and there is a little voice in his head that tells him “Maybe I should look at this a little differently.”

This is the best kind of literary thriller and page-turner – one that is intelligent, complex and rewarding. There is no deus ex machina at the end and all the pieces work marvelously as they bring the reader to a thrilling conclusion, one that is heart-stopping and heart-breaking.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 19 readers
PUBLISHER: Doubleday (February 22, 2011)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More crime novels set in Russia: 

Three Stations by Martin Cruz Smith

Moscow Noir edited by Natalia Smirnova and Julia Goumen

The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith


February 23, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: Character Driven, Debut Novel, Noir, Reading Guide, Russia, Thriller/Spy/Caper

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