A book blog about Russia in English-language fiction

Tag: London

Chameleon by Mark Burnell (2002)

Voronezh, Voronezh, Voronezh. Three reviews in a row take Russia in Fiction back there. Though this central Russian city diminishes as we progress. In Black Earth City, Voronezh is the central character. In JUDAS 62 it is the location of the origin plot. In Chameleon, the subject of this post, it is merely the site of a murder that forged the reputation of Mark Burnell’s main Russian character, the oligarch-cum-mafiya boss, Kostya Komarov.

Burnell’s wonderful Petra Reuter tetralogy was published between 1999 and 2005. Here at Russia in Fiction we have re-read them several times, and have learnt to take care when picking up the first in the series (The Rhythm Section), as it usually means reading the four book series all the way through.

The series as a whole is not specifically about Russia, but in Chameleon —the second in the series— Russia comes more to the fore, in the character of Kostya Komarov.

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Gorsky by Vesna Goldsworthy (2015) – part one

Part two of this review is here.

Great wealth, hedonistic parties, thwarted love. A young man who lives next door to an extraordinarily wealthy figure into whose world he is drawn.

That same extraordinarily wealthy figure is seeking to win back a girl whom he had loved and lost, who lives across the way from him, but is now married to someone else.

Nick, Tom, Daisy, Jordan Baker.

Gorsky is a reimagined version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby.

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The Romeo Flag by Carolyn Hougan (1989)

Published in 1989, but set a decade earlier, as Jimmy Carter’s presidency is coming to an end and the Soviet Union seems as threatening as ever to the West, The Romeo Flag flew briefly in the world of Russia-in-fiction thrillers.

The Romeo Flag offers a complex globe-trotting, decade-spanning, page-turning plot that differs from the run-of-the-mill, even whilst being built around a couple of the staples of Russia-related fiction; a surviving Romanov heir and a Soviet mole at the heart of the US government.

On top of that, The Romeo Flag turns out to contain uncanny parallels with a fresh new soon-to-be bestselling novel published only last week.

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The Sixth Directorate by Joseph Hone (1975)

Joseph Hone, ‘the most unjustly neglected spy novelist of his generation’. So said Hone’s obituary in The Telegraph (23 September 2016).

From the Russia-in-fiction perspective, The Sixth Directorate opens with a prescient view of what a few —though I think not many— observers of the Soviet scene with astute foresight were thinking possible in the mid-1970s. Surely, such apparently wishful thinking went, there must be people within the organisations at the heart of that closed stagnating system who wanted progressive reform?

And how right they were.

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December by James Steel (2009)

Here at the Russia in Fiction blog, we are interested in how Russia is portrayed in English-language fiction. Whether that fiction is any good comes into the reviewing too of course, but the tropes and plot devices and imagery and assumptions of a remaindered thriller can still fascinate as insights into popular perceptions of Russia at any given time.

James Steel’s December serves as a great example for taking the ‘how Russia is seen’ temperature. From title and front cover blurb, at the end of this century’s first decade, that temperature is low.

A NEW COLD WAR HAS HIT EUROPE …

dECEMBER, jAMES STEEL
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The Senility of Vladimir P. by Michael Honig (2016) – part one

Part two of this review is here.

The Senility of Vladimir P. is a cleverly crafted, multilayered novella that works on a number of different levels. If you had never heard of Vladimir Putin, you might well still be engaged by the story of an honest man, Nikolai Sheremetev, in a corrupt world. Sheremetev is drowning in a dilemma, the only escape from which appears to be thieving and bribery.

That the honest man in question is the full-time carer of an aged and dementia-stricken Vladimir Putin creates a conceit that allows The Senility of Vladimir P. to explore the Putin era in Russia and its legacy.

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