Among the many benefits of Russian glasnost has been the evolution of espionage fiction into a more cerebral form of international thriller. Archangel is a worthy example of how the history of modern Russia can be woven into a mesmerizing adventure yarn. Beginning with a curious encounter between an aged Russian and a visiting British historian, Harris's story carries the reader through a strata of politicians, prostitutes, policemen, and patriots. Narrator Michael Kitchen's ability to represent diverse foreign dialects is simply stunning. His reading provides an intriguing cadence that is both engaging and easy to follow. Readers who enjoy the Arkady Renko detective stories of Martin Cruz Smith (Gorky Park, Havana Bay) will be very pleased with this novel. Most highly recommended.ÄRay Vignovich, West Des Moines P.L., IA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
As in his first thriller, Fatherland, Harris again plunders the past to tell an icy-slick story set mostly in the present. Readers are plunged into mystery, danger and the affairs of great men at once, as, outside Moscow in 1953, Stalin suffers a fatal stroke, and the notorious Beria, head of Stalin's secret police, orders a young guard to swipe a key from the dictator's body, to stand watch as Beria uses it to steal a notebook from Stalin's safe and then to help bury the notebook deep in the ground. These events unfold not in flashback proper but as told to American Sovietologist C.R.A. "Fluke" Kelso by the guard, now an old drunk. Following a lead from the old man's story as well as other clues, Kelso, soon accompanied by an American satellite-TV journalist, goes in pursuit of the notebook and, later, the explosive secret it contains; others, including those who cherish the days of Stalin's might, are on the chase as well. With this hunt as backbone, the plot fleshes out in muscular fashion, fed by assorted conspiratorial interests and a welter of colorful, if sometimes too obvious (Stalin as madman; Beria as sadist), characters. The crumbling ruin that is today's Moscow comes alive in the details, which continue as Kelso's search moves north into the frozen desolation of the White Sea port of Archangel. Sex, violence and violent sex all play a part in Harris's entertaining, well-constructed, intelligently lurid tale, which, along with his first two novels, places him squarely in the footsteps not of "Conrad, Green and le Carré," as the publisher would have it, but of Frederick Forsyth. And, like Forsyth, Harris has yet to write a novel without bestseller stamped on it‘including this one. Simultaneous audio book; optioned for film by Mel Gibson. (Feb.)