A Very Expensive Poison: The Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and Putin’s War with the West

Luke Harding. Vintage, $16 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-1-101-97399-8
Harding (The Snowden Files), a foreign correspondent for The Guardian, covers the 2006 poisoning of Russian exile Litvinenko in informative detail and sensationalist style. Drawing on interviews, original reportage, and a British public inquiry, Harding reiterates the inquiry’s findings: Litvinenko was the victim of a political assassination that was indistinguishable from a gangland hit. Born in 1962, Litvinenko had been an officer of the FSB, Russia’s national security service (and KGB successor), until he tipped off a friend, oligarch Boris Berezovsky, about a planned attempt on Berezovsky’s life. Fleeing the wrath of Berezovsky’s would-be assassins, in 2000 Litvinenko and his family found refuge in London, where Litvinenko became a security advisor, MI6 informant, and dissident speaking out against Russian president Vladimir Putin and his “mafia state.” A casual meeting with two business associates, Andrey Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, cut short Litvinenko’s activities. According to forensics experts following a trail of radiation, the two had been transporting polonium, which ended up in Litvinenko’s tea, killing him within weeks. The public inquiry found that Litvinenko was certainly killed by Lugovoi and Kovtun, the flunkeys of an FSB operation that was “probably approved” by Putin. Harding suitably conveys the shocking, violent, and tragic story of a man whose murder has gone unpunished. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2016
Release date: 01/24/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 978-1-78335-093-3
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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