book review: The Silent Oligarch by Christopher Morgan Jones

The basics: At its simplest, The Silent Oligarch is an investigative thriller about Russian corruption and money laundering. Webster, a journalist turned private investigator, is hired to look into a notoriously corrupt Russian businessman and his lawyer.

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.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!


  1. I am glad that you loved this one, as I have read some other tepid reviews that had me a little disinterested in it. It does sound as if it's a complex story, and one that my brain could chew on for awhile. Great review today!

    1. It was different than I expected, but I did enjoy it. I think if I had not read Snowdrops already, I would have appreciated it even more!

  2. I read another review that made this sound sort of confusing, but yours makes it sound really interesting. Funny how that can happen. I'm not sure if I'll read this anytime soon, but I'll definitely keep it in mind.

    1. Jenny, that's interesting someone else called it confusing. There's something about literature set in Russia that makes me expect it to be confusing, so I was pleasantly surprised when this one wasn't!

  3. I have an affinity for books set in Russia as that was the focus of my college studies. I'm definitely planning to read this one - even if it isn't perfect, it sounds like an intriguing read!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

    1. Heather, it definitely is an intriguing read! It's not perfect, but I still enjoyed it and am so glad to have read it. I'll look forward to your thoughts on it!


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