A suspenseful thriller set during the precarious days of the Soviet Union’s collapse.
The story begins with the ouster of President Mikhail Gorbachev at the beginning of the tumultuous end of the Soviet Union. Opportunities and danger abound in a country beaming with possibility but in political disarray. Along the Chizna River, woodsmen tasked with rooting out salmon poachers find themselves up against a particularly ruthless bunch, especially after one of their own is brutally murdered, terrifying the rest. One of the woodsmen, a young teenager named Ivan, strongly suspects that the notorious Russian Mafia is responsible. Meanwhile, a fishing expedition is arranged for a group of American elites eager to take advantage of the opportunity to travel in a Russia less encumbered by restrictions. Jeb Caldwell, a famous American billionaire, is suddenly kidnapped while staying at the same camp where poachers killed Boris, Ivan’s friend. The kidnappers quickly demand a $25 million ransom in exchange for his safe return. Problematically, Caldwell’s wife, Cheryl, no longer has quick access to such a fortune, since her husband has greatly diminished his wealth through his considerable philanthropic efforts. Caldwell’s fishing companions attempt to contact the KGB for assistance, but the agency’s power and reach have been circumscribed by the Soviet Union’s demise. Author Groome deftly braids historical fact and fiction when President George H.W. Bush himself appeals to Yeltsin to intervene when hope is all but lost. Some unusual plot twists help keep the reader guessing while mirroring the volatility of foreign affairs at the time. However, in the complex skein of a plot, the multiple strands take too long to tie together, potentially frustrating the reader. Nevertheless, the double narrative action of the kidnapping and the grand geopolitical drama is compelling. The more those two plotlines intersect, the more intriguing the chaos that ensues from regime change, even if—in this case, perhaps especially if—the revolution points toward liberty or some semblance of it.
A lively kidnapping story that cuts into and reveals a major historical event in international politics.