My thoughts: The Silent Oligarch is an immensely readable thriller. It didn't keep me on the edge of my seat, but I was intrigued by it and appreciated the pace at which it unfolded. I was most impressed with how Jones could tell a complicated story with many players in a relatively straight-forward manner without me confusing characters.
What kept this novel feeling less like a thriller was the alternating narration. Webster, a journalist turned investigator with numerous international connections to call upon, and Lock, the lawyer, took turns telling their stories. Seeing corruption from both sides made this story much more human, which took away from the suspense somewhat, but I appreciated the nuance to this approach. Jones tells this story from the perspective that Russia is corrupt on every level:
“Every Russian is corrupt according to his station in life. If you are a schoolteacher, you sell grades. If you are a fishmonger, you give the best fish to those who can do something for you in return. Malin expected to be a mid-level technocrat taking a few million a year from the odd opportunity here and there. But he has managed to make himself a player and now it’s hundreds of millions, maybe billions.”Despite all I have read about corruption in Russia, the optimistic idealist in me wonders if its really true for every single person. At times this sense of corruption seemed almost too neat and tidy. After reading (and enjoying) Snowdrops by A.D. Miller (my review) last year, I found many similarities in theme and tone, but Snowdrops was both a more subtle, devastating and ultimately more intriguing novel for me. To dismiss The Silent Oligarch, however, would not be fair, as it is not trying to be Snowdrops. Both have merits, both are debut novels by British writers who worked in Russia.
Favorite passage: “No crime was ever discovered in Russia unless someone more powerful than you wanted to hurt you.”
The verdict: The Silent Oligarch is an intelligent thriller that examines Russian corruption from the inside and the outside. Jones is a talent to watch, as he told a complicated, thrilling story in an incredibly accessible way. Recommended to fans of political thrillers and international thrillers.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 336 pages
Publication date: January 19, 2012
Source: publisher, via TLC Book Tours
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy The Silent Oligarch from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)
To learn more about Christ Morgan Jones, visit his website. Also, check out the full tour schedule.
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