I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed this after hearing a couple rather negative reviews. Part of that may be due to the excellent narration of Kevin Howard. I don’t know. I do know that it was nominated and shortlisted for the Man Booker Award and that’s a pretty good recommendation.
Nick Platt is a British attorney who works in Moscow in the contemporary times – since 2008 anyway. Russia is floating in money due to the oil boom but it also has an abundance of corruption. Platt is writing to his fiance to tell her what all went on during his time in Russia – to explain it to her. He fell in love and took part in something rather unsavory – we know that – Martin strings the psychological suspense along with a lot of foreshadowing and intertwining plot elements.
Actually, that’s a real shortcoming in the novel – Miller almost beats us over the head with how easily a good guy got sucked in and turned bad in a money-grubbing environment. Promise him love and he’ll do whatever it takes – caught up in the exotic beauty.
The best part is Platt’s love of Moscow, of Russia – Martin wrote this well and it’s read perfectly by Howard.
Whether or not it belongs on the Booker Shortlist is probably the question. I have no definitive answer to that. I’d tentatively say yes and point to Child 44, a detective novel set in Stalinist Russia by Martin Smith, which was so honored in 2010. I think there are trends in the Booker circles – maybe lit circles. I also think there is a lack of books which are worthy of following works by John Banville or Julian Barnes or A.S. Byatt.