Friday, 11 July 2008


AUTHOR: Robert Harris


DATE READ: July 2008

NOTES: Another thriller from Robert Harris. It gives a very bleak (but not inaccurate) picture of post-Cold War Russia. Fluke Kelso, an historian, is invited to participate in a symposium in Moscow on Stalin (his speciality). An old Russian, Rapava, visits his hotel room and leads him to believe that Stalin left a notebook which could be of real interest to anyone interested in the history of the period and its legacy. Rapava disappears but soon Kelso is on the trail of the notebook aided by Rapava’s estranged daughter and a young American news reporter. The notebook turns out to be not written by Stalin but by a young maid who became pregnant.

The trail takes them to Archangel on the Arctic Coast where they seek out the mysterious offspring of the maid. But the secret police are on Kelso’s trail……

The atmosphere in this book is terrific and the action is fast and (on the whole) believable. The bleakness of Archangel is really well drawn. Unfortunately the plot became a little too fanciful for my taste. But the descriptions of Stalin’s putative son returning to Moscow by train were brilliant and his story telling is great. And there was a good ambivalent ending……

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