I really enjoyed Archangel. Having previously studied Communist Russia, I recognised many of the political figures featured in the book, but am now looking forward to reading even more about the subject.
That said, you don't need any knowledge of the subject to enjoy this book (though concentrating on the many Russian names is vital!). As with Harris' other excellent thriller Fatherland, I found myself instantly empathising with the characters of Archangel, namely 'maverick' academic Fluke Kelso (in Moscow to attend a conference about the newly opened Soviet archives), and desperately willed him on in his quest to find out whether Stalin's secret notebook does indeed exist.
However, Harris cleverly shows the many sides to the effects of Kelso's investigations, and also draws a sympathetic picture of the long-suffering Russian police chief Suvorin, who too suspects there are many secrets buried in Russia's history but knows unearthing them may have a much greater impact than that of a 'scoop'.
As the plot moved on I was compelled to rush through the always evocative descriptions of 'New Russia' to get to its conclusion. Archangel is exciting, fast-paced, eerie as well as sad. A fantastic book.