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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Review - The Silent Oligarch

Monday M&MM is hosting the book blog tour for Chris Morgan Jones who has his debut novel out this month.  Please be sure to stop by on Monday and find out more about the author.  His first book takes us inside Russia and corporate money laundering networks.  Below is the review and it is surprising this is Mr. Jones' first novel.  Don't forget Monday's blog tour! 

Author: Chris Morgan Jones

Copyright: January 2012 (Penguin Press) 336 pgs

Series: Debut novel, stand alone?

Sensuality: some violence, not graphic

Mystery Sub-genre: Suspense, Intrigue

Main Characters:  Richard Lock, money launderer and Benjamin Webster, Corporate Intelligence Investigator

Setting: Modern day, England & Russia

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

The book opens with Richard Lock in Monte Carlo enjoying his wealth with the beautiful and easily bored Oksana.  The reader is introduced to his easy and pampered life just before it starts to fall apart.  Lock is a lawyer who has created a complex web of fake businesses to shuffle money around for the Russian Minister of Natural Resources, Konstantin Malin. Lock had even married Malin's daughter although they are divorced now and Marina lives in London raising their only child. Lock's world begins to fall apart piece by piece because another wealthy and vindictive operator feels he was cheated in a deal with Malin and hires Benjamin Webster to ruin Malin.  Lock's position has always been that he would be the front man and be the face to take any blame if the web of money laundering oil companies came under suspicion.  Lock has been paid well to maintain the shifting web of shell companies and the risk with it. 

But what happens in Russia when you really are under scrutiny by world courts?  Lock begins to experience real fear when a good friend dies under very suspicious circumstances and he has goons restricting his every move.  Webster instinctively feels that Lock is the linchpin and if they can get him to cooperate with their side and expose Konstantin Malin for the business crook he is the world would be better off.  Webster manipulates press and FBI contacts to raise the heat on Lock.  Webster becomes personally involved when the decade old murder of his dear journalist friend Inessa may have been at Malin's hand.  The line between doing his job and getting a personal payback for Inessa blur at times for Webster.  Is Webster too personally involved to be effective?

This book is for the patient reader who enjoys letting the story unfold and the tension slowly rise without car chases or explosions.  If you want a glimpse of the shadowy world of wealthy chess players using humans as pieces to be maneuvered in a bigger strategy, this book is your armchair vantage point.  The focus is on Lock and Webster and how these two will exit on the other side of this crucible.  The viewpoint shifts between the two characters and the reader becomes invested in both men.  Lock is reduced to the man he once was before taking the easy big payout and Webster is dealing with the dangerous people who slaughtered Inessa and who haunt his dreams and now threaten his wife and peaceful home life.

I had many distractions as I was reading this book and that didn't help.  This book simmers on low while setting the stage.  This book should be read when you have blocks of time to devote to its reading. Despite my scattered attention, the book is clearly a fine story.  The premise is sound and couldn't be more "ripped from the headlines" as wealthy corporate interests manipulate everything around them with impunity.  The plot is solid and realistic.  The character development is golden in this book, they are both flawed and make mistakes.  The pacing reminds me of Hitchcock's 1946 movie Notorious with layers of danger built up slowly as the story progresses.  The climax is as real world as I have read in a book but left one thread unanswered.  In real life we rarely get every question neatly answered, and perhaps this leaves the possibility of another Benjamin Webster novel to follow that thread.

  Remember Chris Morgan Jones' Book Blog Tour.   Don't miss it.

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trish said...

I love books that have premises that are ripped from the headlines. Makes them that much easier to imagine as real.

Thanks for being on the tour!

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