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Let's Put the Future behind Us
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In today's Russia, everyone's out for profit‘especially Max Borodin, the hero of Womack's entertaining but uneven new thriller (after Random Acts of Senseless Violence, 1994). By equal turns officious and wryly humorous, Max, a former bureaucrat, lends money and forges documents through an organization called the Universal Manufacturing Company. But others want to share the profits, including a prominent Russian demagogue and several unsavory Georgian mafiosi. Max has a caring wife, Tanya, and a stunningly beautiful mistress to distract him‘until his mistress's husband involves Max in a business deal that runs him afoul of both the head of the mafia and an aspiring nationalist politician. The husband is killed, Tanya is kidnapped and it's up to Max to straighten it all out‘and to try to turn a profit at the same time. The engaging plot features several shoot-outs, safe crackings and stickups. Near the end, however, the pieces drop too easily into place. But Max is a charismatic narrator. Though his social criticisms lack depth, his comic observations of his fellow profiteers are winning, and he leads the reader merrily toward his goal of reaping the benefits of capitalism. As the title says, Womack is leaving behind his string of near-future thrillers here: no problem. (Apr.)

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