From Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Fasman, whose well-received debut, The Geographer's Library
(2005), was set in Da Vinci Code
territory, takes a compassionate look at the hard truths of modern-day Russia in his absorbing second novel. After a failed romance, 32-year-old Jim Vilatzer is working in his father's Rockville, Md., restaurant, trying to earn enough cash to pay off a $24,000 gambling debt. In an attempt to earn more money, Jim uses his Russian language skills learned in college to get a job in Moscow with the Memory Foundation to interview and record the stories of former political prisoners. A series of interviews draws him into a far-reaching scheme involving the abduction of retired Russian nuclear and biotech scientists. The bio-thriller aspect of the plot provides a loose frame for Fasman's real concerns: Jim's personal, romantic and espionage relationships and, more importantly, the trials and tribulations of the new Russia itself. (Nov.)
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Thirtysomething Jim Vilatzer lives at home and works in his parents’ restaurant. He’s going nowhere until gambling debts force him to make a change. He lands a job in Moscow (he grew up speaking Russian to his immigrant grandparents), interviewing survivors of the gulag for a not-for-profit company. His work soon makes him a pawn in a scheme to sell to the highest bidder four of the former USSR’s top weapons engineers, which, in turn, leads him to become a target of Russian state security and the CIA. Fasman (The Geographer’s Library, 2005), weaves two very different plotlines here, one the story of a man discovering a new world and realizing that his roots are more important than he realized, the other tracking the machinations of crooked Russian officials to sell fellow citizens for a profit. The first plot is deftly, even lovingly achieved; Fasman’s Moscow is beautiful, tragic, brutal, and exhilarating. The second story line is convoluted and arcane. But, even so, the sum of the parts in this lyrically written novel is more than enough to keep readers engaged. --Thomas Gaughan