A debut novel set in the 1980s follows a young banker.
Alexander Andreivich Romanovsky is the vice president and Eastern European area manager at Universal Bank, based in San Francisco. Alexander is of Russian descent, though he was born in France and raised in California. His life in America was aided greatly by his mother’s wealthy friend Fiona Sinclair. Alexander even developed a relationship with Fiona’s son, Drew Faircloth. Tragically, Alexander’s father died when the boy was only 17 years old, and his mother eventually committed suicide. Despite such a dark family history, Alexander finds his career as a banker going well. But it is the mid-’80s, and the AIDS epidemic is in full force. Drew contracts the disease and is adamant that Alexander take over his art-dealing business after he dies. But Alexander faces his own problems. Not only does he become involved in the affairs of a troubled British secretary named Philippa Tate-Palmer, but aspects of his family’s life in Europe come to haunt him as well. What is a cosmopolitan yet conflicted banker to do? In short, there is no telling if and when all the complications in Alexander’s life will get sorted out. Jordan’s book shines when offering intriguing facets of the cultures and characters that Alexander encounters. Lively details include Russian traditions such as an Eastern Orthodox Easter and the inherently odd juxtaposition of a boy with Russian roots growing up in California. Of course, some developments are blaringly obvious. In an early scene, Alexander is blackmailed while on a trip to Russia. But the crime is orchestrated so smoothly by a stereotypical brute named Ivan Alexinsky that readers will be left wondering if it couldn’t have been conducted in a more thrilling, or at least memorable, fashion. Then there is Philippa, who, when not reminding cohorts of how British she is (how she longs for a decent cup of tea in America), goes so far as to collapse on a sofa in a fit of crying. Despite such melodramatic choices, the narrative should leave readers curious about the fates of the people Alexander meets on his serpentine journey, even if none of them are particularly endearing.
While it features some stock characters, this multicultural tale creates a complex web of relationships.