From Publishers Weekly
The 2006 poisoning of the former KGB agent turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko by radioactive polonium captured the world's imagination. In this less than crystalline account, New York Times
London bureau chief Cowell plays up the spy-thriller intrigue. Building Litvinenko almost into a miniseries protagonist—he was [h]usband, father, traitor, whistleblower, son, spy, lover, fugitive—Cowell recaps his career as a KGB functionary and then critic of Russia's postcommunist kleptocracy; his relationship with tycoon Boris Berezovsky; his exile in London's murky Russian expat community and outspoken attacks on Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he denounced, from his deathbed, as his killer. Cowell's analysis of the crime and the investigation, especially his retracing of the tell-tale trail of polonium, is repetitive and often confusing. He characterizes the murder sometimes as a brazen act of nuclear terrorism intended to restart the Cold War, sometimes as a careful, surreptitious hit. The question of whodunit—Putin? Berezovsky? vengeful KGB veterans? Russian businessmen exposed by Litvinenko's private sleuthing? to protect the Italian prime minister, Romano Prodi, of all people?—flounders inconclusively among competing conspiracy theories. Cowell relishes the mystery of the case, but doesn't dispel it. (Aug. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
--This text refers to the
Written by a New York Times foreign correspondent, this work investigates the November 2006 murder of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko. Briefly an international incident because of the murder weapon—polonium 210—the case opened a window onto the dark side of post–Soviet Russian politics, through which Cowell enterprisingly casts his gaze as far as evidence and reasonable inference permit. From interviews with Litvinenko’s circle and with the Russians in Britain, where the crime occurred, officially charged with killing him, Cowell smokes out possible machinations behind the murder. Suggesting that Russia’s power alignment led by President Vladimir Putin held grudges against Litvinenko, Cowell delves both into Litvinenko’s career in the KGB and its domestic successor, the FSB, and into his associations with Putin enemy Boris Berezovsky. Cowell then discusses the forensics of Litvinenko’s fatal final meeting with fellow graduates of the Russian secret service, detailing the discovery of widespread radioactive contamination that matched up with the movements of the victim and the suspects. A comprehensive inquiry. --Gilbert Taylor
--This text refers to the