Guest Reviewer Ash's on “Moskva” by Jack Grimwood

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Hardcover: 480 pages

Publisher: Michael Joseph (5 May 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0718181557

ISBN-13: 978-071818155

Synopsis: Red Square, 1985. The naked body of a young man is left outside the walls of the Kremlin; frozen solid - like marble to the touch - missing the little finger from his right hand.

A week later, Alex Marston, the headstrong fifteen year old daughter of the British Ambassador disappears. Army Intelligence Officer Tom Fox, posted to Moscow to keep him from telling the truth to a government committee, is asked to help find her. It's a shot at redemption.

But Russia is reluctant to give up the worst of her secrets. As Fox's investigation sees him dragged deeper towards the dark heart of a Soviet establishment determined to protect its own so his fears grow, with those of the girl's father, for Alex's safety. 

And if Fox can't find her soon, she looks likely to become the next victim of a sadistic killer whose story is bound tight to that of his country's terrible past . . .

Ash's Rating: 5/5

Ash Review: When the chance to read Moskva presented itself, I was very excited. I love Russian history and any book set in Russia is always going to be one I want to read. It was surprising therefore that it took me a few attempts to get into Moskva; this is not a poor reflection on Moskva but instead a reflection on me! 

Moskva is not a simple story; Grimwood has created a lengthy narrative crossing time, culture and country with characters whose motives and inherent nobility you will question throughout and which presents questions that the reader is never offered a simple answer to. For this reason Moskva requires a reader who is ready to pay attention and give this book the time and energy it deserves.  As I am sure my rating suggests, once I sat down and got into Moskva, I was enthralled by a novel which so brilliantly creates the tense, atmospheric scene of Russia in the 1980s on the precipice of change

Moskva begins with the body of a young boy being found by the Kremlin wall.  At the same time, Major Tom Fox is  attending a party at the British Embassy where he meets Alex, the teenage step daughter of Ambassador Sir Edward Marston.  Fox has been sent to Russia to keep him out of the way whilst his actions as an officer in Northern Ireland are investigated.  Exiled in a city shrouded in suspicion, Fox drinks himself into a stupor to dull the pain of the loss of his own teenage daughter, Rebecca and the subsequent collapse of his marriage. 

When Alex goes missing, Fox steps in to investigate in a thinly veiled attempt to redeem himself for the failings he feels contributed to Rebecca’s death. As his investigation leads him further and further into the depths of the secrets of high powered and dangerous men, Fox finds himself surrounded by people he cannot trust and thwarted at every turn by the suffocating surveillance of Moscow’s elite. 

I do not feel I can do any justice to how well written Moskva is. The tension is built perfectly throughout and each character presents the reader with another opportunity to explore the inherent complexity of people. Each character has their own past motivating them to actions which have consequences across decades and continents. 

Grimwood does a brilliant job of setting the scene for both 1940s Russian and 1980s Russia – he captures both the politics and the emotions of both of these periods perfectly.  On finishing Moskva, I felt bereft – it is such an engaging read that it stayed with me for sometime. I think Moskva would make a brilliant film as the characters and settings are so rich and the plot has a lot of action filled suspense. 

The cover of Moskva proclaims it to be “Fatherland meets Gorky Park” - I have never read either so cannot assert or refute this claim but Moskva is an engaging, challenging and brilliant I am off to order Fatherland and Gorky Park!

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