Handpicked in 1999 by the 'Family' surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, with very little governmental or administrative experience beyond having served as deputy mayor of St Petersburg, seemed like the perfect choice in the eyes of an oligarchy bent on moulding the president's successor to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had scrapped his way through post-war Leningrad schoolyards, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as with ruthless efficiency Putin dismantled the country's media, wrested control and wealth from the country's burgeoning business class, and decimated the fragile mechanisms of democracy. Within a few brief years, virtually every obstacle to his unbridled control was removed and every opposing voice silenced, with political rivals and critics driven into exile or to the grave. As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face she has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. Her horrifying and spellbinding account of how this 'faceless' man manoeuvred his way into absolute - and absolutely corrupt - power will stand as a classic of narrative non-fiction.