A taut and shocking story of vengeance, bloodshed and love, set over 100 days of bitter Russian winter… from the bestselling author of Messiah.
Moscow, December 1991. Chaos reigns after the fall of communism. Muscovites are used to queues and empty shelves, but now they have to cope with a dangerous power vacuum – and a war between brutal mafiya gangs for control of the city. So when a child's body is found beneath the ice of the Moscow river it attracts little attention to begin with. Then a second body is found. And a third.
At the heart of the gathering storm is Red October, Russia's most famous vodka distillery. Alice Liddell, an American banker, has come to Moscow to oversee its privatization – an unpopular move. Alice wants to get going, but faced with the charismatic, ruthless Lev – distiller director and head of one of the warring mafia gangs – a very difficult job is starting to look impossible.
Lev's arch-enemy has vowed revenge on him and it seems that the bizarre child killings might be part of this. The last thing he needs is a determined young woman in the heart of his criminal empire. But will Lev and Alice be enemies or allies? And when the storm has passed, who will be left standing?
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Boris Starling's third thriller Vodka continues the run of excellence that started with Messiah. For the last decades of Soviet communism, there existed a weird symbiosis between officialdom and organised crime; Vodka offers an inventive description of what happened in the early years of democracy when that antagonistic partnership broke down. Alice Liddell could not be more of an innocent--her very name tells us that she is out of her depth, in Wonderland--and she gets lumbered with the job of privatising Moscow's largest vodka factory. Struggling with her alcoholism in a society where hard drinking is universal, Alice is caught up in the gang warfare between the distillery's Mafia boss Lev and his Chechen rivals. Meanwhile, someone is stealing children from an orphanage Lev protects and the KGB man who acts as his deputy is playing sinister games of his own. Vodka offers an intelligent and well-informed take on Russian politics—-all the more so, paradoxically, for changing some of the details and names of what happened in real life. The relationship between Lev and Alice is genuinely touching—he is the hard man who discovers there is somebody he cares about, the woman for whom falling in love is a destructive ravishment. -- Roz KaveneyReview:
Praise for Vodka:
‘Suspense is cumulative, with the narrative a kaleidoscope patterned by Starling’s love affair with all things Russian and Moscow in particular’ Chris Petit, Guardian
‘A pulsating and imaginative tale of murder and mafia’ Daily Mirror
‘A vividly drawn blockbuster set in Moscow in the post-Gorbachev era’ New Statesman
Praise for Messiah:
‘A real cliffhanger’ Sunday Express
‘Fast-paced, gritty… deserves nothing but praise’
Praise for Storm:
‘A furious, compelling and enjoyable read’ Maxim
‘I’ve been pinned helplessly to every chilling page’ Loaded
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