RED SQUARE by Edward & Fridrikh Neznansky Topol


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Two Russian ÉmigrÉs, now living in N.Y., use ""educated speculation"" to offer a fact/fiction reconstruction--featuring a narrator-sleuth--of a Suslov/Andropov plot against Brezhnev in early 1982. The investigation begins with the sudden death (factual) of KGB Deputy Chairman Semyon Tsvigun, brother-in-law of Brezhnev himself. Igor Shamrayev, of the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, is Brezhnev's personal choice to look into the death, which is officially from natural causes. Un-officially, according to the KGB, the cause was suicide. Was it really? If so, did Tsvigun kill himself because of a recent KGB campaign to expose government corruption? Or was Tsvigun really murdered--because he suspected that Party Secretary Suslov (now seriously ill) was planning a coup against Brezhnev, with help from some smears on Brezhnev family members by Andropov's KGB? Furthermore, are the coup-plotters now trying to frame the lover of Brezhnev's daughter for Tsvigun's murder? Or did some old enemy of Tsvigun's commit the crime? So it goes--with theory upon theory (including one involving spy motives) as documents and transcripts are interpolated through Shamrayev's narration: he confers with Brezhnev (who's pretending illness as a safety precaution); he has sex with one of the key witnesses; he tries to stay in touch with his very young mistress. And finally, after a longwinded interview with Tsvigun's recalcitrant widow, there's a detailed confession/showdown--and a denouement involving East/West exchanges and Soviet-Jewish emigration. The plotting here is too busy, in short, and too dense with Sovietology, to hold readers looking for diverting what-if? entertainment. And though the narration is often brisk and ironic, the translation of slangy Russian dialogue comes through with odd patches of Runyonesque and Cockney. Still, for those fairly savvy about Soviet internal politics (Andropov, disappointingly, makes only minor, brief appearances), this is a hard-working, richly convoluted concoction--and, in spots, a modestly stylish one too.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1983
Publisher: Quartet--dist. by Merrimack (99 Main St., Salem NH 03079)