A vivid, chilling portrait of a Russia grown “scary and unpredictable.”



A scathing indictment of Vladimir Putin’s “police state” that offers compelling evidence of his absolute suppression of any opposition or exposure of the state’s corruption.

Knight (How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies, 2006, etc.) builds a convincing case for high-level Russian ordering of political murders, from liberal Duma member Galina Starovoitova to outspoken journalist Anna Politkovskaya to opposition leader Boris Nemtsov—among many others. The murder of Kremlin opponents has been a robust tradition since czarist times, gaining Bolshevik impetus under Lenin’s Cheka and ferocious momentum under Stalin’s Great Purge and the notorious long arm of the KGB. Though Boris Yeltsin dissolved the KGB, it was reconfigured by political necessity as the FSB, with former KGB lieutenant Putin as director. Knight looks at the so-called siloviki (those running the “power ministries”) as holding not only the power in the country, but the secrets about one another that maintain that power. When these secrets were revealed—e.g., by journalists or brave government officials investigating Russia’s brutal crackdown in Chechnya or the 1999 “apartment bombings”—the victims were marked and murdered Mafia-style, their deaths blamed on “terrorists.” The 2006 death by poison of former KSB officer–turned-whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko in London created an international scandal. However, as shockingly blatant as the death was—polonium 210 was such a rare and lethal substance that it could only have been procured by the FSB—the lack of political pressure on the Putin regime by the U.S. and elsewhere has been puzzling and outrageous. Essentially, Knight astutely asserts, Putin brazenly invites suspicions on Kremlin involvement “as a way to intimidate those who oppose him.” The author also examines the story of the Tsarnaev brothers, who perpetuated the Boston Marathon bombings and had traveled in Russia, and she concludes with the rule of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who, on Putin’s direction, has taken the police state to Stalinist proportions.

A vivid, chilling portrait of a Russia grown “scary and unpredictable.”

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-11934-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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