A book blog about Russia in English-language fiction

Tag: St Petersburg (Page 2 of 2)

The Cardinal of the Kremlin by Tom Clancy (1988) – part two

Part one of this review is here

Key to many a thriller/crime writer’s success is the creation of a memorable lead character. Martin Cruz Smith has his Arkady Renko, Boris Akunin his Erast Fandorin, and even John Le Carré returned again and again to the enigmatic George Smiley. Tom Clancy did not simply create such a character, he created a dynasty and alternative history.

Clancy’s Jack Ryan rose, across a series of novels, from CIA analyst to two-term US President. There then followed a series of novels about Jack Ryan Jr., continued after Clancy’s death in 2013 with varying degrees of quality across multiple authors. Jack Ryan movies are multiple, and there is a Jack Ryan Jr. TV series.

In The Cardinal of the Kremlin —the third novel to feature Clancy’s signature character— we meet CIA analyst Jack Ryan as part of an American delegation to Moscow, charged with negotiating an arms control treaty. The US side are sceptical of any Soviet concession.

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Moscow at Midnight by Sally McGrane (2017) – part two

Part one of this review is here.

If you want your Russia-in-fiction tropes, Moscow at Midnight provides a collector’s cornucopia, and does so with style and originality.

As part one of this review observes, McGrane provides so many Moscow references that it might sounds as if she reduces them to a passing mention, or, in one of her many memorable phrases, ‘a strange kind of Baedeker’.

Whilst there are occasional hints of that, Moscow at Midnight elevates its location with lyrical and evocative descriptions.

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Moscow at Midnight by Sally McGrane (2017) – part one

Part two of this review is here.

May be the reviewer who wrote “a worthy successor to John Le Carré” thought that they were doing Sally McGrane a favour? They would be wrong. And not just for the normal ‘why is everyone who writes a half decent spy thriller always compared to Le Carré?’ reasons.

Moscow at Midnight might be about a jaded CIA officer in Russia on the trail of a missing woman, but it ain’t no spy thriller. It is a smorgasbord of literary genres — sure, there is espionage; and there is a touch of Bulgakovian magic realism; and there is satire; and there is crime; and there is comedy.

But most of all, there is Russia.

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