cover image The Wheel of Justice

The Wheel of Justice

William E. Holland. Pocket Books, $22 (342pp) ISBN 978-0-671-79953-3

A fairly conventional beginning--an American businessman is caught in the Russian financial and police bureaucracy--turns into a riveting story of greed, betrayal, lost and almost-lost love, and murder. Brad Chapman, American head of a joint U.S.-Russian business venture, is accused of corruption after the apparent suicide of his Russian counterpart. Just when it looks as though Chapman will be charged with the man's murder, his American lawyer, Fall, makes an incriminating discovery about Brad's Russian secretary (and lover), Sasha. Meanwhile Fall's ex-lover Inna Korneva, a People's Deputy and daughter of a famous dead dissident, working on an anti-corruption law, uncovers an unholy mix of neo-nationalists and crooked businessmen plotting the takeover of Chapman's firm. After considerable bureaucratic intrigue--in which Chapman's Russian lawyer, Slavin, is also involved--the story spins toward a stunning, bloody climax in a Moscow courthouse. The numerous personal complications (Brad's wife is in love with Fall who still longs for Inna) are deftly juxtaposed with the new Russia struggling to shed the its old Soviet ways: an old woman judge calls people ``Comrade'' but sticks fiercely to the law; a ruthless villain ``knew that Stalin had it right: `When there's a person, there's a problem.'"" As smart, slightly nerdy Slavin says, ``Very few things are easily finished in Russia. We begin; we lose our innocence; we endure.'' In this engrossing, thoroughly satisfying book--one of the best post-Soviet novels to date--author Holland (Moscow Twilight) has his milieu down cold. (Feb.)