Archangel

Robert Harris, Author Random House Inc $24.95 (373p) ISBN 978-0-679-42888-6
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. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/1999
Release date: 01/01/1999
Mass Market Paperbound - 415 pages - 978-0-515-12748-5
Paperback - 421 pages - 978-0-09-180137-3
Compact Disc - 978-0-7540-5356-9
Hardcover - 421 pages - 978-0-09-177924-5
Analog Audio Cassette - 10 pages - 978-0-7540-0295-6
Hardcover - 640 pages - 978-0-375-70412-3
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-375-40418-4
Compact Disc - 978-1-85686-923-2
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