Whilst attending a conference on newly-opened Soviet archives, Fluke Kelso is approached by an old NKVD officer who knows where Beria hid Stalin's private papers. What begins as an academic curiosity turns into a murderous chase across Russia.
©2009 Robert Harris (P)2009 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
Robert Harris has done a wonderful job of weaving an ever more compelling plot with utterly believable and suprisingly sympathetic, if not always likeable, characters. His portrayal of the conflict and chaos of post-Soviet Russia is fascinating.
Michael Kitchen is so much more than a reader- he truly dramatizes the book.
Unlike another reviewer, I found the ending to be crafted brilliantly. He turned the inevitable into suspenseful, emotional tension. Instead of being disappointed BY the ending, I was disappointed THAT it ended.
More, Mr. Harris and Mr. Kitchen, and quickly!
I decided to try Archangel because I loved Robert Harris’s Fatherland as well as the first two books from the Cicero trilogy, Imperium and Lustrum (the latter called Conspirata in the U.S.). I did not enjoy Archangel as much.
In the story, British historian Fluke Kelso (yes, that's the bizarre moniker of the protagonist) is attending a conference in Boris Yeltsin’s Moscow in the 90s. He learns of the possible existence of a black oilskin notebook owned by Joseph Stalin. From there, the book is a sort of chase that involves a race to find this MacGuffin and the meaning behind it, between Kelso and ex-KGB heavies, new Russian intelligence/police, an extremely annoying American reporter, and a morose femme fatale.
It’s fascinating to see the way Harris has weaved his fictional world with actual elements of history, but there is something about the story that seems off. Where Fatherland and the Cicero books are expertly plotted, Archangel moves along in a clumsy fashion. Also, the contrivance of the name Fluke Kelso distracted me, and was a constant reminder of the unwieldiness of the plot.
The story picks up momentum as it moves toward the conclusion. Harris’s vivid descriptions of snow are some of the best I’ve seen. I agree with those who find the ending implausible.
I've listened to over fifty audiobooks, and this is one of the most uneven I've heard. Michael Kitchen (who plays Detective Foyle in Masterpiece Theatre’s Foyle’s War) does a masterful job narrating, but the recording engineer made a number of amateurish mistakes. For example, the volume periodically increases or decreases arbitrarily, forcing you to turn the volume up or down to compensate. Also, it is very apparent and distracting where one recording session left off and another one picked up.
Old World Traveler
Certainly, one of the best.
You always ended up surprised.
All of them...but probably Stalin.
For fans of political thrillers, this counts as one.
I'm not certain what elese to compare it to.
Where they meet Stalin Junior for the first time. Creepy how he's described as looking exactly like his father.
I wouldn't rename it.
aside from the odd ending, this is a great book.
Michael knows hwo to do Russian accents extremely well. The twist when we find out the notebook is actually about Anna, not Stalin is a big revolation.
While the story itself isn't Harris' best it is enjoyable. Sadly the production value is awful. It's painfully clear when the narrator has started a new recording session as the levels don't match up at all and it really does effect the listeners ability to loose themselves in the story. A shame.
The story was a good one, slow to start but it did a fine job of piquing interest and the story built to a fine crescendo. HOWEVER! The ending sucked. I felt cheated out of all the time put into listening to it. The two stars is because the story premise and plot was good, but if I had it to do over, I would not have listened to it.
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