“Ian Kharitonov’s debut thriller novel fires on all cylinders and delivers a high octane, intellectually gratifying experience. The novel’s premise is complex, with roots extending back to World War II and Stalin’s reign of terror. Serpentine tentacles from the past extend in every direction, their purpose exposed as modern events unfold and a horrifying world threat emerges.
As a native Russian, Kharitonov’s location descriptions are breathtakingly alive, giving you a ground level view. The final scenes in Kazakhstan are worth the price of entry alone. Character development is strong, especially with Sokolov, the story’s protagonist. His motivations are clear and I genuinely empathized with his plight. He’s skilled, but stands outside of the typical covert operative framework typically used for this genre. The author clearly plans to bring Sokolov back for follow on novels, and I look forward to experiencing further adventures.
A few reviewers felt distracted by Kharitonov’s lengthy narrative background passages regarding the Bolshevik Revolution and Stalin’s iron fisted rise to power. As a quasi-student of history, I found the passages to be utterly fascinating, describing the absolute tragedy and devious insanity of Stalin’s rule. Historically based, the detours into history served the book’s purpose, by matching the framework of Russia’s historical struggle to the motivations of the novel’s antagonists. I didn’t feel weighed down by these passages at all. They felt like a treat in the greater context of a worthy thriller.”