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Archangel Mass Market Paperback – February 1, 2000
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Archangel is a remarkably literate novel--and simultaneously a gripping thriller--that explores the lingering presence of Stalin amidst the corruption of modern-day Russia. Robert Harris (whose previous works include Enigma and Fatherland) elevates his tale by choosing a narrator with an outsider's perspective but an insider's knowledge of Soviet history: Fluke Kelso, a middle-aged scholar of Soviet Communism with a special interest in the dark secrets of Joseph Stalin. For years, rumors have circulated about a notebook that the aging dictator kept in his final years. In a chance encounter in Moscow, Kelso meets Papu Rapava, a former NKVD guard who claims that he was at Stalin's deathbed and says that he assisted Politburo member Beria in hiding the black oilskin notebook just as Stalin was passing. Before Kelso can get more details, Rapava disappears, but the scholar is energized by the evidence Rapava has provided. As Kelso begins to pursue his historical prize, however, his investigation ensnares him in a living web of Stalinist terror and murder. It soon becomes clear that the notebook is the key to a doorway hiding many secrets, old and new.
Harris's understanding of Soviet and modern Russian is impressive. The novel rests on a seamless blend of fact and fiction that places real figures from Soviet history alongside Kelso and his fictional colleagues. Especially disturbing are the transcripts from interrogations and the excerpt from Kelso's lectures on Stalin; the documents provide chilling evidence to support Kelso's claim: "There can now be no doubt that it is Stalin rather than Hitler who is the most alarming figure of the twentieth century." --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
As in his first thriller, Fatherland, Harris again plunders the past to tell an icy-slick story set mostly in the present. Readers are plunged into mystery, danger and the affairs of great men at once, as, outside Moscow in 1953, Stalin suffers a fatal stroke, and the notorious Beria, head of Stalin's secret police, orders a young guard to swipe a key from the dictator's body, to stand watch as Beria uses it to steal a notebook from Stalin's safe and then to help bury the notebook deep in the ground. These events unfold not in flashback proper but as told to American Sovietologist C.R.A. "Fluke" Kelso by the guard, now an old drunk. Following a lead from the old man's story as well as other clues, Kelso, soon accompanied by an American satellite-TV journalist, goes in pursuit of the notebook and, later, the explosive secret it contains; others, including those who cherish the days of Stalin's might, are on the chase as well. With this hunt as backbone, the plot fleshes out in muscular fashion, fed by assorted conspiratorial interests and a welter of colorful, if sometimes too obvious (Stalin as madman; Beria as sadist), characters. The crumbling ruin that is today's Moscow comes alive in the details, which continue as Kelso's search moves north into the frozen desolation of the White Sea port of Archangel. Sex, violence and violent sex all play a part in Harris's entertaining, well-constructed, intelligently lurid tale, which, along with his first two novels, places him squarely in the footsteps not of "Conrad, Green and le Carre," as the publisher would have it, but of Frederick Forsyth. And, like Forsyth, Harris has yet to write a novel without bestseller stamped on it?including this one. Simultaneous audio book; optioned for film by Mel Gibson.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
Kelso,now has anew mystery to solve. What was the girls real relationship to Stalin and where is she now? Kelso pairs up with a reporter who is also interested in the diary and the answers to the questions it poses. So, the two of them journey to the far off village in the north to find out. The hypothetical problem that is uncovered is truly chilling. The final scenes are exciting. Kelso and the reporter are chased by the right-wing group and then by a unit of Russian commandos. Why is everyone so interested in this serving girl? What implications for post-Stalin Russia does all of this have? I recommend that you find out. It'll be time well spent.
It is difficult to speak about the plot without giving away too much. Basically, a historian, well passed his glory years, stumbles upon the possibility of a very valuable and reputation-saving diary left by the Man of Steel himself, Joseph Stalin. As the historian, Fluke Kelso (what a great name for a has-been), begins to investigate, it becomes very clear that certain parities would much prefer if he let the matter rest. I can't tell you more; but the author really makes the most of this premise. Many figures from Russian history are brought to startling life.
Harris powers of description are really superb, and his images of Russia, especially rural, northern Russia, were so bleak and otherworldly I felt shivers. What I really love about Harris is not only are his story ideas enthralling and richly promising, his abilities as a writer back up the promise. How many books have you started because the story idea sounded great, only to find the author wasn't a good writer? Well, have no fear with Harris. His plotting and pace really make you feel like you are racing to the end, his characters are people you care about and oddly lasting in memory, and his historical research is really top notch.
I guarantee you will be thinking about the words of Zanaida Pupava, the legal student paying her way through law school by turning tricks in a "new Russia," long after you finish the book. -Mykal Banta
I read this book shortly after seeing the movie and both versions have some advantages over the other. The advantages of the book are as follows: in the book, you really get a feeling for just what a total scumbag is the journalist; he would get a big story even if it meant the deaths of innocents. The second advantage is that the characters in the book state that the girl has a screw loose; this is important because it explains why her last, climactic, act is so un-Russian. The third, and what I believe is the surprisingly strong, transcendental, theme of the book (which makes it much more than just a mundane mystery book): the book's theme hammers into the reader that one should pay attention to history, that it is not just a boring, academic, enterprise. One HAS to be aware of history because history has a nasty habit of turning around and biting you in the ass.
I picked up this book after reading 'An Officer and a Spy' , which was truly a masterpiece of 'faction' ( fact and fiction!!) writing and thoroughly enjoyable. But 'Archangel' was a rather tame offering.