In the bowels of the Russian government’s petroleum ministry lurks an anonymous bureaucrat named Konstatin Malin, at least when he is not flying off to his estate on the Côte d’Azur.
Malin secretly controls an obscure Irish company called Faringdon Holdings. More accurately, he controls Richard Lock, an Anglo-Dutch lawyer, who nominally owns Faringdon, and its pyramid of other shadowy Société Anonyme registered in random off-shore tax havens. Money flows from the Russian oil fields, and handsome amounts are diverted to these Malin-controlled enterprises. Malin made a mistake, though. He had Lock shift a few assets and sell an empty corporate shell to a fractious Greek named Aristotle Tourna. Lawsuits are filed and regulatory agencies awaken. Tourna also hires Ikertu Consulting, a corporate security firm located in London, an unofficial, non-gun-toting CIA or FBI for billionaires in trouble. Ikertu’s top investigator is Ben Webster, a former freelance writer with extensive experience in post-Soviet Russia. Webster knows that Richard Lock, “a fraud, a stooge, a money launderer," is the key to Malin, but as he delves into the three-card-Monte commercial empire, he is shocked to uncover evidence that the murder of a close friend and fellow investigative reporter a decade previously may have been the result of her attempt to expose Malin. Jones’ sketches of all that is good and bad about London, Moscow, Berlin seem dead-on, right down to his marvelous detailing of the decadent lifestyle of the new Russian oligarchy, a group where school children receive Ferraris as birthday presents. His bad guy, Malin, “impermeable” eyes “dark brown and heavy, neither curious nor passive,” is thoroughly sinister. The author also is adept at constructing and explaining the complicated post-Soviet Russia ambiance. Told in the third person, his narrative moves forward with an aura of malevolence to a conclusion too close to reality to be anything but believable.
Minimal gun-flourishing, minimal violence, maximum moral quandary.