Top critical review
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Good thriller with meticulous historical detail
on 22 February 2006
Fluke Kelso is in Moscow to attend a conference on the recently opened Soviet archives. He is a Oxford historian and Mr Harris's novel tells the story of four days in Kelso's life which starts one night when a former NKVD officer visits him in his hotel room. He claims to have been the bodyguard of Lavrenty Beria who was at the time the chief of the secret police just before Stalin's death. According to him, he witnessed Stalin's death when he had his fatal stroke and he also saw Beria steal his papers among which was a black notebook.
The following day, Kelso decides to verify the man's story at the Lenin Library. At this point he doesn't know that his enquiry is the beginning of a breathless chase from Moscow to the port of Archangel located on the White Sea in order to unveil Stalin's last secret which has been hidden for nearly fifty years.
Good suspense, plenty of action and an interesting historical background are qualities in this novel which place Robert Harris at the same level as writers like John Buchan, John LeCarré and Len Deighton.