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Red to Black by Alex Dryden
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This was an average read. Putin is in charge now and the Communist "red" is being replaced by the capitalist "black". Finn is a British spy and Anna is a KGB Colonel. Anna lures Finn in a "honey trap" but the relationship actually works for them despite the complications of their lives. Finn uncovers a corrupt banking arms money scam that he tries to foil but of course it's in everyone's interests that he doesn't. The layers off corruption and the irrelevance of the truth are pure spy thriller stuff. Alex Dryden takes you into the settings both in terms of the espionage world and the European backdrop. ( )
  Hanneri | Nov 9, 2016 |
This was not the most compelling spy story I have ever read but I'm always up for a book about modern Russia. I found this to be fairly accurate in terms of location etc. My only problem was that it dragged in the middle. ( )
  cygnet81 | Jan 17, 2016 |
Rating: 3.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Finn is a veteran MI6 operative stationed in Moscow. In the guise of an amiable trade secretary, he has penetrated deep into the dangerous labyrinth that is Russia under Vladimir Putin to discover some of its darkest secrets, thanks to a high-level source deep within the Kremlin.

The youngest female colonel in the KGB, Anna is the ambitious daughter of one of the former Soviet Union's elite espionage families. Charged with helping to make Russia strong again under Putin, she is ordered to spy on Finn and discover the identity of his mole.

At the dawn of the new millennium, these adversaries find themselves brought together by an unexpected love that becomes the only truth they can trust. When Finn uncovers a shocking and ingenious plan—hatched in the depths of the Cold War—to control the European continent and shift the balance of world power, he and Anna are thrust into a deadly plot in which friend and foe wear the same face. With time running out, they will race across Europe and risk everything -—career, reputation, and even their own lives— to expose the terrifying truth.

My Review: I enjoyed this read more than I expected to, and less than I should have. It's a very, very scary and plausible tale of a plot to use the West's greed to bring it down. After all, Marx wrote, “The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.” He was a prescient thinker, was Marx.

I'm not going to go into the bits of the story because the spoilers would be epic. And also, the story told is either instantly obvious...the New Russia is a viciously capitalist and socially Darwinian funhouse mirror of the West's nastiest, least admirable qualities, and will therefore succeed in out-competing the West...or completely incredible, as to a triumphalist Teabagger idiot.

I'm on the instantly obvious side, obviously, and that's why I enjoyed the book more than I expected to. Russia's manifold social problems are all traceable to its insanely lopsided wealth distribution. That should ring an entire cathedral's worth of bells for anyone in the USA. If it doesn't, then the Teabagger idiot triumphalism is likely to obscure the evidence of a calculated takedown of Western economies.

Anyway. What didn't work well for me was the narrative structure of the book, with its reported-not-experienced quality, and the fact that the main characters were sketched more than drawn. I need to feel some sense of connection, positive or negative, to the people who are taking me on the journey that is a book. Here, in Anna and Finn, I felt I was being told a bit about the people in a not-very-close friend's long, detailed story. That was, I think, a result of the all-flashback narrative structure. The past can enhance the present in a story, there is no doubt, but the past doesn't enhance the past with anything like as much intensity. It simply becomes more flashback.

Overall, in the scheme of things, is this a thriller I'd recommend to a fellow subway rider? Maybe not, since it's so slow-paced. But for me, and those like me who lean to the political left, it's got a lot of confirmation-bias appeal. The fact that the author makes a very strong point of thanking Russian sources who need to remain anonymous is telling. And unsurprising.

And very, very disheartening.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. ( )
1 vote richardderus | Nov 23, 2013 |
A very well-written and sophisticated look at an area of national policy that remains off the radar screen: the manipulation of huge sums of moeny in secret accounts. Instead of old-fashioned war, the KGB involves itself in a decades-long plan for internal and external power which is facilitated by the rise of Putin, and by the Western powers support of "democratization" in the former Soviet Union. The leading character could have been created by Le Carre: he is so cynical that he no longer knows where lies begin and end. Yet, he is compelled to act by a sense of ethics and patriotism, and pays for his idealism by being sacked in Moscow. His counterpart, a beautiful KGB colonel, is his match and his great love. Is she working for her masters or is she too much in love? How these two individuals function in post-modern times, in an era in which the financial markets have become as powerful as nation states, is the central core, as is the interest of nations versus simple--and naive?--concepts of right and wrong . The author is somewhat pedantic, and there are passages that are dead with arcane expository language. But the overall plot is fine, and the ending is satisfying and surprising. You grow to know and care for the central characters, even if you don't know what is true and what is legend. If you are a student of both espionage and real-politik, this is a wonderfully literate and insightful work. ( )
  neddludd | Jul 5, 2012 |
Just couldn't get my interest in this book. I didn't find it compelling and struggled through two spies lives who seem to love one another and work their spy networks effectively without giving anything away. Putin is rising to power while the affair goes on. ( )
1 vote pharrm | Jan 11, 2010 |
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In a resurgent Russia fueled by oil money and run by a corrupt oligarchy, a beautiful KGB colonel, Anna, and her British counterpart in the MI6, Finn, are caught in a secret mission to uncover the threat a possible new Russian empire poses to the world.… (more)

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