Archangel

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Overview

Archangel tells the story of four days in the life of Fluke Kelso, a dissipated, middle-aged former Oxford historian, who is in Moscow to attend a conference on the newly opened Soviet archives. One night, Kelso is visited in his hotel room by an old NKVD officer, a former bodyguard of the secret police chief Lavrentry Beria. The old man claims to have been at Stalin's dacha on the night Stalin had his fatal stroke, and to have helped Beria steal the dictator's private papers, among them a notebook. Kelso decides...
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Overview

Archangel tells the story of four days in the life of Fluke Kelso, a dissipated, middle-aged former Oxford historian, who is in Moscow to attend a conference on the newly opened Soviet archives. One night, Kelso is visited in his hotel room by an old NKVD officer, a former bodyguard of the secret police chief Lavrentry Beria. The old man claims to have been at Stalin's dacha on the night Stalin had his fatal stroke, and to have helped Beria steal the dictator's private papers, among them a notebook. Kelso decides to use his last morning in Moscow to check out the old man's story. But what starts as an idle inquiry in the Lenin Library soon turns into a murderous chase across nighttime Moscow and up to northern Russia - to the vast forests near the White Sea port of Archangel, where the final secret of Josef Stalin has been hidden for almost half a century.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Stalin Reborn?

There are books that you agree to review, and then there are those that you beg for -- just to have the opportunity to read it a few weeks before everyone else. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Robert Harris's latest roller coaster, Archangel. It's been four years since the publication of Enigma -- four years since the world has had the pleasure of reading a novel by this British master. Unbelievably, Enigma topped his debut, Fatherland. Can he do it again with Archangel?

Harris took us on a criminal investigation in postwar Berlin after the Nazis won World War II in Fatherland, and showed us the high-tension world of English code-breakers in Enigma. Harris has a way of bringing us to frightening, mysterious places, and as demonstrated by Archangel, no place is more frightening than Russia after the fall of communism. With vivid language and sharp research, he makes us feel the fear and the hopelessness of a nation without a soul and of the people desperate to regain what once was.

Each of Harris's thrillers is superior, suspenseful, and wild, but the new world order makes Archangel stand out. With current headlines screaming about the instability within the former Soviet Union, no book has been more topical -- or so alarmingly possible.

Fluke Kelso was once a scholar of promise, but like so many in the highly competitive world of academia, he's never delivered. But one night, at a symposium in Moscow concerning the release of secret Soviet archives, he is approached by Papu Rapava, a former Kremlin bodyguard with a story to tell. No one but the desperate Kelso would believe the tale, for what Rapava describes is a sort of Holy Grail among researchers: an actual diary left by Joseph Stalin himself. Such an artifact, if it's genuine -- and if Kelso can survive the fascist Vladimir Mamantov, who wants it for his own agenda -- would be the coup of a lifetime for the discredited researcher.

Before Kelso can learn the location of the diary, Rapava disappears, and Kelso's search for the former bodyguard leads him to the man's daughter, a whore selling herself in the new Moscow of drugs, corruption, and the Russian mafia. With an unscrupulous American journalist hot on their heels, a major of the new KGB close behind, and the shadowy Mamantov following them all, the two follow a trail that leads from Moscow's seedy underbelly to the industrial city of Archangel, where Russia once built her fleets of submarines, to a remote camp on the edge of the Siberian nothingness, and finally to a shocking conclusion that bites like the wind blowing off the tundra. What Kelso sees as the coup of his career might turn out to be the catalyst for an actual coup in Russia. There is a legacy behind the diary, a legacy of evil and death, and Fluke Kelso is unwittingly about to unleash it on the world.

The writing is taut and explosive, and whether Harris is describing the macabre site of a brutal execution or the curdled expressions of the babushkas tirelessly sweeping the refuse of a decaying society, he makes you see, hear, and smell it all. And the plot? The plot is so twisted and clever that you can't put the book down until the end. (That's not a promise, it's a warning. If you start reading on a weeknight, plan to be late for work the following day.)

—Jack B. Du Brul

London Times
Other authors have emulated Le Carré. Harris has swallowed him alive.
Evening Standard
Superb. This is a really gripping narrative, full of suspense and unexpected turns, which will keep you hooked until the climax on its final page....I have never read a thriller based in Russia that has such an authentic feel.
John Skow
Harris, a master of umbrous what-ifs, is at his best here. -- Time Magazine
NY Daily News
Crackling...Harris puts every rival on notice with this tough, savvy and lurid throwback to what-if spydom.
Michael Specter
...[Gives] those of us who retain some literary nostalgia for the Evil Empire exactly what we have been waiting for: a thriller about the bad old days set in the deepgray present....In Harris' able hands you can feel the oppression of Stalin's time....If you pull at the threads they'll unravel; so don't. The book is still funexciting even....Harris never loses sight of the big picture. —The New York Times Book Review
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Powerful, clever...delivers the thrills of Graham Greene. Will keep you on edge until its bizarre conclusion.
New York Times
Library Journal
Were Stalin's private papers stolen upon his death? The author of Fatherland keeps rewriting history.
Will Lee
[A] sensibly lo-fi thriller....[the hero] staggers toward the momentous truth, leaving us not sweatily out of breath but wearily in the know.
-- Entertainment Weekly
Anthony Lejeune
...[A]n exceptionally well written, skillfully crafted, continuously gripping thriller. -- National Review
Jack B. Du Brul
There are books that you agree to review, and then there are those that you beg for -- just to have the opportunity to read it a few weeks before everyone else. I jumped at the chance to get my hands on Robert Harris's latest roller coaster, Archangel. It's been four years since the publication of Enigma -- four years since the world has had the pleasure of reading a novel by this British master. Unbelievably, Enigma topped his debut, Fatherland. Can he do it again with Archangel?

Harris took us on a criminal investigation in postwar Berlin after the Nazis won World War II in Fatherland, and showed us the high-tension world of English code-breakers in Enigma. Harris has a way of bringing us to frightening, mysterious places, and as demonstrated by Enigma, no place is more frightening than Russia after the fall of communism. With vivid language and sharp research, he makes us feel the fear and the hopelessness of a nation without a soul and of the people desperate to regain what once was.

Each of Harris's thrillers is superior, suspenseful, and wild, but the new world order makes Archangel stand out. With current headlines screaming about the instability within the former Soviet Union, no book has been more topical -- or so alarmingly possible.

Fluke Kelso was once a scholar of promise, but like so many in the highly competitive world of academia, he's never delivered. But one night, at a symposium in Moscow concerning the release of secret Soviet archives, he is approached by Papu Rapava, a former Kremlin bodyguard with a story to tell. No one but the desperate Kelso would believe the tale, for what Rapava describes is a sort of Holy Grail among researchers: an actual diary left by Joseph Stalin himself. Such an artifact, if it's genuine -- and if Kelso can survive the fascist Vladimir Mamantov, who wants it for his own agenda -- would be the coup of a lifetime for the discredited researcher.

Before Kelso can learn the location of the diary, Rapava disappears, and Kelso's search for the former bodyguard leads him to the man's daughter, a whore selling herself in the new Moscow of drugs, corruption, and the Russian mafia. With an unscrupulous American journalist hot on their heels, a major of the new KGB close behind, and the shadowy Mamantov following them all, the two follow a trail that leads from Moscow's seedy underbelly to the industrial city of Archangel, where Russia once built her fleets of submarines, to a remote camp on the edge of the Siberian nothingness, and finally to a shocking conclusion that bites like the wind blowing off the tundra. What Kelso sees as the coup of his career might turn out to be the catalyst for an actual coup in Russia. There is a legacy behind the diary, a legacy of evil and death, and Fluke Kelso is unwittingly about to unleash it on the world.

The writing is taut and explosive, and whether Harris is describing the macabre site of a brutal execution or the curdled expressions of the babushkas tirelessly sweeping the refuse of a decaying society, he makes you see, hear, and smell it all. And the plot? The plot is so twisted and clever that you can't put the book down until the end. That's not a promise, it's a warning. If you start reading on a weeknight, plan to be late for work the following day.
-- barnesandnoble.com

Newsweek
Sizzling...a zinger.
Michael Specter
...[Gives] those of us who retain some literary nostalgia for the Evil Empire exactly what we have been waiting for: a thriller about the bad old days set in the deep, gray present....In Harris' able hands you can feel the oppression of Stalin's time....If you pull at the threads they'll unravel; so don't. The book is still fun, exciting even....Harris never loses sight of the big picture.
-- The New York Times Book Review
The NY Daily News
Crackling...Harris puts every rival on notice with this tough, savvy and lurid throwback to what-if spydom.
Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
....[S]o outlandish as to defy credibility. But Mr. Harris makes you believe it as it's happending. What he does particularly well is evoke the atmosphere of contemporary Russia...[with] its threat of violent instability, the howling of its caged wolves....an adventure that will keep you on edge until its bizarre conclusion. -- The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Top-flight thriller, something of a variation on le Carré's The Russia House, as an American historian tracks down a MacGuffin of far greater value than the Maltese falcon. Fluke Kelso, having published two books about the fall of the Soviet empire, finds himself invited to a symposium in Moscow that will supposedly focus on newly released archival material. Some think Kelso will reveal yet another bombshell. And that might be true, since he has secretly interviewed elderly Papu Rapava, bodyguard of KGB chief Lavrenty Beria, about the night that Stalin died. Rapava observed all as Beria took a key from Stalin's neck and stole from a safe an oilskin pouch holding the dictator's memoirs (an improvisation on the theme of Harris' first book, 1986's Selling Hitler, about the faking of the Hitler diaries). Later, the pouch was buried in Beria's backyard. The ever-avid Kelso goes ferreting through some recently declassified papers in the Lenin Library, then hunts up Vladimir Mamantov, a Stalinist fanatic he'd interviewed years ago for his big book about the Soviet collapse, a book sneered at by Mamantov because it painted Stalin black. Mamantov concedes that in Western terms the man was a monster, but avers that by Soviet standards he lifted the U.S.S.R. from the tractor to the atomic bomb. And Mamantov opines to Kelso that Stalinism will return: some 20 million Russians still believe Stalin was the greatest figure of the century—a rather large bloc should some other charismatic figure rise anew to lead it once again.

After Kelso makes a secret trip to Beria's house and discovers freshly turned earth, he falls in with an American TV reporter while being trackedby the RT Directorate's chief. Deaths ensue as the trail leads to the White Sea port of Archangel, where Kelso does indeed make a momentous discovery. No personal demons here to soothe, but Harris' knack for recreating historical events puts him in very select company.

From the Publisher
Praise for

ENIGMA

"Elegant, atmospheric . . . a tense and thoughtful thriller."    —San Francisco Chronicle                                

"Literate and savvy . . . It's always a pleasure to encounter a historical thriller this subtle and detailed. . . . [             ] brims with wartime intrigue and paranoia."         —The Washington Post Book World

FATHERLAND

"A stunning debut."   —Boston Globe                                

"An elegant thriller, a thoughtful, frightening story of complicity."    —San Francisco Chronicle             

"An absorbing, expertly written novel."    —The New York Times                                   

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375704123
  • Publisher: Random House Large Print
  • Publication date: 11/28/1998
  • Edition description: Large Print Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 640
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Harris has been a television correspondent with the BBC and a newspaper columnist for the London Sunday Times. His novels have sold more than six million copies and been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Berkshire, England, with his wife and three young children.
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Read an Excerpt

To choose one's victims, to prepare one's plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed . . . there is nothing sweeter in the world.
—J. V. Stalin, in conversation with Kamenev and Dzerzhinsky


Olga Komarova of the Russian Archive Service, Rosarkhiv, wielding a collapsible pink umbrella, prodded and shooed her distinguished charges across the Ukraina's lobby toward the revolving door. It was an old door, of heavy wood and glass, too narrow to cope with more than one body at a time, so the scholars formed a line in the dim light, like parachutists over a target zone, and as they passed her, Olga touched each one lightly on the shoulder with her umbrella, counting them off one by one as they were propelled into the freezing Moscow air.

Franklin Adelman of Yale went first, as befitted his age and status, then Moldenhauer of the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz, with his absurd double doctorate—Dr. Dr. Karl-bloody-Moldenhauer—then the neo-Marxists, Enrico Banfi of Milan and Eric Chambers of the LSE, then the great cold warrior Phil Duberstein, of NYU, then Ivo Godelier of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, followed by glum Dave Richards of St. Antony's, Oxford—another Sovietologist whose world was rubble—then Velma Byrd of the U.S. National Archive, then Alastair Findlay of Edinburgh's Department of War Studies, who still thought the sun shone out of Comrade Stalin's ass, then Arthur Saunders of Stanford, and finally—the man whose lateness had kept them waiting in the lobby for an extra five minutes—Dr. C.R.A. Kelso, commonly known as Fluke.

The door banged hard against his heels. Outside, the weather hadworsened. It was trying to snow. Tiny flakes, as hard as grit, came whipping across the wide gray concourse and spattered his face and hair. At the bottom of the flight of steps, shuddering in a cloud of its own white fumes, was a dilapidated bus, waiting to take them to the symposium. Kelso stopped to light a cigarette.

"Jesus, Fluke," called Adelman, cheerfully. "You look just awful."
Kelso raised a fragile hand in acknowledgment. He could see a huddle of taxi drivers in quilted jackets stamping their feet against the cold. Workmen were struggling to lift a roll of tin off the back of a truck. One Korean businessman in a fur hat was photographing a group of twenty others, similarly dressed. But of Papu Rapava, no sign.
"Dr. Kelso, please, we are waiting again." The umbrella wagged at him in reproof. He transferred the cigarette to the corner of his mouth, hitched his bag up onto his shoulder, and moved toward the bus.

"A battered Byron" was how one Sunday newspaper had described him when he had resigned his Oxford lectureship and moved to New York, and the description wasn't a bad one—curly black hair too long and thick for neatness, a moist, expressive mouth, pale cheeks, and the glow of a certain reputation—if Byron hadn't died on Missolonghi but had spent the next ten years drinking whiskey, smoking, staying indoors, and resolutely avoiding all exercise, he too might have come to look a little like Fluke Kelso.

He was wearing what he always wore: a faded dark blue shirt of heavy cotton with the top button undone; a loosely knotted and vaguely stained dark tie; a black corduroy suit with a black leather belt, over which his stomach bulged slightly; red cotton handkerchief in his breast pocket; scuffed boots of brown suede; an old blue raincoat. This was Kelso's uniform, unvaried for twenty years.

"Boy," Rapava had called him, and the word was both absurd for a middle-aged man and yet oddly accurate. Boy.

The heater was going full blast. Nobody was saying much. He sat on his own near the back of the bus and rubbed at the wet glass as they jolted up the ramp to join the traffic on the bridge. Across the aisle, Saunders made an ostentatious display of batting Kelso's smoke away. Beneath them, in the filthy waters of the Moskva, a dredger with a crane mounted on its aft deck beat sluggishly upstream.

He nearly hadn't come to Russia. That was the joke of it. He knew well enough what it would be like: the bad food, the stale gossip, the sheer bloody tedium of academic life—of more and more being said about less and less. That was one reason why he had chucked Oxford and gone to live in New York. But somehow the books he was supposed to write had not quite materialized. And besides, he never could resist the lure of Moscow. Even now, sitting on a stale bus in the Wednesday rush hour, he could feel the charge of history beyond the muddy glass: in the dark and renamed streets, the vast apartment blocks, the toppled statues. It was stronger here than anywhere he knew, stronger even than in Berlin. That was what always drew him back to Moscow—the way history hung in the air between the blackened buildings like sulfur after a lightning strike.

"You think you know it all about Comrade Stalin, don't you, boy? Well, let me tell you: You don't know fuck."
Kelso had already delivered his short paper, on Stalin and the archives, at the end of the previous day: delivered it in his trademark style—without notes, with one hand in his pocket, extempore, provocative. His Russian hosts had looked gratifyingly shifty. A couple of people had even walked out. So, all in all, a triumph.

Afterward, finding himself predictably alone, he had decided to walk back to the Ukraina. It was a long walk and it was getting dark, but he needed the air. And at some point—he couldn't remember where; maybe it was in one of the back streets behind the Institute or maybe it was later, along the Noviy Arbat—but at some point he had realized he was being followed. It was nothing tangible, just a fleeting impression of something seen too often—the flash of a coat, perhaps, or the shape of a head—but Kelso had been in Moscow often enough in the bad old days to know that you were seldom wrong about these things. You always knew if a film was out of synch, however fractionally; you always knew if someone fancied you, however improbably; and you always knew when someone was on your tail.

He had just stepped into his hotel room and was contemplating some primary research in the minibar when the front desk had called up to say there was a man in the lobby who wanted to see him. Who? He wouldn't give his name, sir. But he was most insistent and he wouldn't leave. So Kelso had gone down, reluctantly, and found Papu Rapava sitting on one of the Ukraina's imitation-leather sofas, staring straight ahead, in his papery blue suit, his wrists and ankles sticking out as thin as broomsticks.

"You think you know it all about Comrade Stalin, don't you, boy?" Those had been his opening words.
And that was the moment when Kelso had realized where he had first seen the old man—at the symposium, in the front row of the public seats, listening intently to the simultaneous translation over his headphones, muttering in violent disagreement at any hostile mention of J. V. Stalin.
Who are you? thought Kelso, staring out of the grimy window. Fantasist? Con man? The answer to a prayer?

The symposium was scheduled to last only one more day—for which relief, in Kelso's view, much thanks. It was being held in the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, an orthodox temple of gray concrete, consecrated in the Brezhnev years, with Marx, Engels, and Lenin in gigantic bas-relief above the pillared entrance. The ground floor had been leased to a private bank, since gone bust, which added to the air of dereliction.

On the opposite side of the street, watched by a couple of bored-looking militiamen, a small demonstration was in progress—maybe a hundred people, mostly elderly, but with a few youths in black berets and leather jackets. It was the usual mixture of fanatics and grudge holders—Marxists, nationalists, anti-Semites. Crimson flags bearing the hammer and sickle hung beside black flags embroidered with the czarist eagle. One old lady carried a picture of Stalin; another sold cassettes of SS marching songs. An elderly man with an umbrella held over him was addressing the crowd through a bullhorn, his voice a distorted, metallic rant. Stewards were handing out a free newspaper called Aurora.

"Take no notice," instructed Olga Komarova, standing up beside the driver. She tapped the side of her head. "These are crazy people. Red fascists."
"What's he saying?" demanded Duberstein, who was considered a world authority on Soviet communism even though he had never quite gotten around to learning Russian.
"He's talking about how the Hoover Institution tried to buy the Party archive for five million bucks," said Adelman. "He says we're trying to steal their history."
Duberstein sniggered. "Who'd want to steal their goddamn history?" He tapped on the window with his signet ring. "Say, isn't that a TV crew?"
The sight of a camera caused a predictable, wistful stir among the academics.
"I believe so . . ."
"How very flattering . . ."
"What's the name," said Adelman, "of the fellow who runs Aurora? Is it still the same one?" He twisted around in his seat and called up the aisle. "Fluke—you should know. What's his name? Old KGB—"
"Mamantov," said Kelso. The driver braked hard, and he had to swallow to stop himself from being sick. "Vladimir Mamantov."
"Crazy people," repeated Olga, bracing herself as they came to a stop. "I apologize on behalf of Rosarkhiv. They are not representative. Follow me, please. Ignore them."
They filed off the bus, and a television cameraman filmed them as they trudged across the asphalt forecourt, past a couple of drooping, silvery fir trees, pursued by jeers.

Fluke Kelso moved delicately at the rear of the column, nursing his hangover, holding his head at a careful angle, as if he were balancing a pitcher of water. A pimply youth in wire spectacles thrust a copy of Aurora at him, and Kelso got a quick glimpse of the front page—a cartoon caricature of Zionist conspirators and a weird cabalistic symbol that was something between a swastika and a red cross—before he rammed it back in the young man's chest. The demonstrators jeered.

A thermometer on the wall outside the entrance read minus one. The old nameplate had been taken down and a new one had been screwed in its place, but it didn't quite fit, so you could tell that the building had been renamed. It now proclaimed itself the russian center for the preservation and study of documents relating to modern history.

Once again, Kelso lingered behind after the others had gone in, squinting at the hate-filled faces across the street. There were a lot of old men of a similar age, pinched and raw-cheeked in the cold, but Rapava wasn't among them. He turned away and moved inside, into the shadowy lobby, where he gave his coat and bag to the cloakroom attendant before passing beneath the familiar statue of Lenin toward the lecture hall.

Another day began.
There were ninety-one delegates at the symposium, and almost all of them seemed to be crowded into the small anteroom where coffee was being served. He collected his cup and lit another cigarette.
"Who's up first?" said a voice behind him. It was Adelman.
"Askenov, I think. On the microfilm project."
Adelman groaned. He was a Bostonian, in his seventies, at that twilight stage in his career when most of his life seemed to be spent in airplanes or foreign hotels: symposia, conferences, honorary degrees—Duberstein maintained that Adelman had given up pursuing history in favor of collecting air miles. But Kelso didn't begrudge him his honors. He was good. And brave. It had taken courage to write his kind of books, thirty years ago, on the Famine and the Terror, when every other useful idiot in academia was screeching for détente.

"Listen, Frank," he said. "I'm sorry about dinner."
"Forget it. You got a better offer?"
"Kind of."
The refreshment room was at the back of the Institute and looked out onto an inner courtyard, in the center of which, dumped on their sides amid the weeds, were a pair of statues, of Marx and Engels—a couple of Victorian gentlemen taking time off from the long march of history for a morning doze.

"They don't mind taking down those two," said Adelman. "That's easy. They're foreigners. And one of them's a Jew. It's when they take down Lenin—that's when you'll know the place has really changed."
Kelso took another sip of coffee. "A man came to see me last night."
"A man? I'm disappointed."
"Could I ask your advice, Frank?"
Adelman shrugged. "Go ahead."
"In private?"

Adelman stroked his chin. "You got his name, this guy?"
"Of course I got his name."
"His real name?"
"How do I know if it's his real name?"
"His address, then? You got his address?"
"No, Frank, I didn't get his address. But he did leave these."
Adelman took off his glasses and peered closely at the book of matches. "It's a setup," he said at last, handing them back. "I wouldn't touch it. Whoever heard of a bar called Robotnik, anyhow? 'Worker'? Sounds phony to me."
"But if it was a setup," said Kelso, weighing the matchbook in his palm, "why would he run away?"
"Obviously, because he doesn't want it to look like a setup. He wants you to have to work at it—track him down, persuade him to help you. That's the psychology of a clever fraud—the victims wind up doing so much chasing around, they start wanting to believe it's true. Remember the Hitler diaries. Either that or he's a lunatic."
"He was very convincing."

"Lunatics often are. Or it's a practical joke. Someone wants to make you look a fool. Have you thought of that? You're not exactly the most popular kid in the school."
Kelso glanced up the corridor toward the lecture hall. It wasn't a bad theory. There were plenty in there who didn't like him. He had appeared on too many television programs, knocked out too many newspaper columns, reviewed too many of their useless books. Saunders was loitering at the corner, pretending to talk to Moldenhauer, both men obviously straining to overhear what he was saying to Adelman. (Saunders had complained bitterly after Kelso's paper about his "subjectivity": "Why was he even invited? That's what one wants to know. One had been given to understand this was a symposium for serious scholars . . .")
"They don't have the wit," he said. He gave them a wave and was pleased to see them duck out of sight. "Or the imagination."
"You sure have a genius for making enemies."
"Ah, well. You know what they say: more enemies, more honor."
Adelman smiled and opened his mouth to say something, but then seemed to think better of it. "How's Margaret? Dare one ask?"
"Who? Oh, you mean poor Margaret? She's fine, thank you. Fine and feisty. According to the lawyers."
"And the boys?"
"Entering the springtime of their adolescence."
"And the book? That's been a while. How much of this new book have you actually written?"
"I'm writing it."
"Two hundred pages? A hundred?"
"What is this, Frank?"
"How many pages?"

"I don't know." Kelso licked his dry lips. Almost unbelievably, he realized he could do with a drink. "A hundred, maybe." He had a vision of a blank gray screen, a cursor flashing weakly, like a pulse on a life-support machine begging to be switched off. He hadn't written a word. "Listen, Frank, there could be something in this, couldn't there? Stalin was a hoarder, don't forget. Didn't Khrushchev find some letter in a secret compartment in the old man's desk after he died?" He rubbed his aching head. "That letter from Lenin, complaining about Stalin's treatment of his wife? And then there was that list of the Politburo, with crosses against everyone he was planning to purge. And his library—remember his library? He made notes in almost every book."
"So what are you saying?"

"I'm just saying it's possible, that's all. That Stalin wasn't Hitler. That he wrote things down."
"Quod volumus credimus libenter," intoned Adelman. "Which means—"
"I know what it means—"
"—which means, my dear Fluke, we always believe what we want to believe." Adelman patted Kelso's arm. "You don't want to hear this, do you? I'm sorry. I'll lie if you prefer it. I'll tell you he's the one guy in a million with a story like this who turns out not to be full of shit. I'll tell you he's going to lead you to Stalin's unpublished memoirs, that you'll rewrite history, millions of dollars will be yours, women will lie at your feet, Duberstein and Saunders will form a choir to sing your praises in the middle of Harvard Yard—"
"All right, Frank." Kelso leaned the back of his head against the wall. "You've made your point. I don't know. It's just—maybe you had to be there with him—" He pressed on, reluctant to admit defeat. "It's just it rings a bell with me somewhere. Does it ring a bell with you?"

"Oh sure. It rings a bell, okay. An alarm bell." Adelman pulled out an old pocket watch. "We ought to be getting back. D'you mind? Olga will be frantic." He put his arm around Kelso's shoulders and led him down the corridor. "In any case, there's nothing you can do. We're flying back to New York tomorrow. Let's talk when we get back, see if there's anything for you in the faculty. You were a great teacher."
"I was a lousy teacher."
"You were a great teacher until you were lured from the path of scholarship and rectitude by the cheap sirens of journalism and publicity. Hello, Olga."
"So here you are! The session is almost starting. Oh, Dr. Kelso—now, this is not so good—no smoking, thank you." She leaned over and removed the cigarette from his lips. She had a shiny face with plucked eyebrows and a very fine mustache, bleached white. She dropped the stub into the dregs of his coffee and took away his cup.
"Olga, Olga, why so bright?" groaned Kelso, putting his hand to his brow. The lecture hall exuded a tungsten glare.

"Television," said Olga, with pride. "They are making a program of us."
"Local?" Adelman was straightening his bow tie. "Network?"
"Satellite, Professor. International."
"Say, now, where are our seats?" whispered Adelman, shielding his eyes from the lights.
"Dr. Kelso? Any chance of a word, sir?" An American accent. Kelso turned to find a large young man he vaguely recognized.
"I'm sorry?"
"R. J. O'Brian," said the young man, holding out his hand. "Moscow correspondent, Satellite News System. We're doing a special report on the controversy—"
"I don't think so," said Kelso. "But Professor Adelman here—I'm sure he'd be delighted—"
At the prospect of a television interview, Adelman seemed physically to swell in size, like an inflating doll. "Well, as long as it's not in any official capacity . . ."
O'Brian ignored him. "You sure I can't tempt you?" he said to Kelso. "Nothing you want to say to the world? I read your book on the fall of communism. When was that? Three years ago?"
"Four," said Kelso.
"Actually, I believe it was five," said Adelman.
Actually, thought Kelso, it was nearer six. Dear God, where were all the years going? "No," he said. "Thanks all the same, but I'm keeping off television these days." He looked at Adelman. "It's a cheap siren, apparently."
"Later, please," hissed Olga. "Interviews are later. The director is talking. Please." Kelso felt her umbrella in his back again as she steered him into the hall. "Please. Please—"

By the time the Russian delegates were added in, plus a few diplomatic observers, the press, and maybe fifty members of the pub-lic, the hall was impressively full. Kelso sank heavily into his place in the second row. Up on the platform, Professor Valentin Askenov of the Russian State Archives had launched into a long explana-tion of the microfilming of the Party records. O'Brian's cameraman walked backward down the central aisle, filming the audience. The sharp amplification of Askenov's sonorous voice seemed to pierce some painful chamber of Kelso's inner ear. Already, a kind of metallic, neon torpor had descended over the hall. The day stretched ahead. He covered his face with his hands.
Twenty-five million sheets . . . recited Askenov, twenty-five thousand reels of microfilm . . . seven million dollars . . .

Kelso slid his hands down his cheeks until his fingers converged and covered his mouth. Frauds! he wanted to shout. Liars! Why were they all just sitting here? They knew as well as he did that nine tenths of the best material was still locked up, and to see most of the rest required a bribe. He'd heard that the going rate for a captured Nazi file was a thousand dollars and a bottle of scotch.

He whispered to Adelman, "I'm getting out of here."
"You can't."
"Why not?"
"It's discourteous. Just sit there, for pete's sake, and pretend to be interested like everyone else." Adelman said all this out of the side of his mouth, without taking his eyes off the platform. Kelso stuck it out for another half minute.
"Tell them I'm ill."
"I shall not."
"Let me by, Frank. I'm going to be sick."
"Jesus . . ."

Adelman swung his legs to one side and pressed himself back in his seat. Hunched in a vain effort to make himself less conspicuous, Kelso stumbled over the feet of his colleagues, kicking in the process the elegant black shin of Ms. Velma Byrd.
"Aw, fuck, Kelso," said Velma.

Professor Askenov looked up from his notes and paused in mid-drone. Kelso was conscious of an amplified, humming silence and of a kind of collective movement in the audience, as if some great beast had turned in its field to watch his progress. This seemed to last a long time, for at least as long as it took him to walk to the back of the hall. Not until he had passed beneath the marble gaze of Lenin and into the deserted corridor did the droning begin again.

Kelso sat behind the bolted door of a bathroom cubicle on the ground floor of the former Institute of Marxism-Leninism and opened his canvas bag. Here were the tools of his trade: a yellow legal pad, pencils, an eraser, a small Swiss Army knife, a welcome pack from the organizers of the symposium, a dictionary, a street map of Moscow, his cassette recorder, and a Filofax that was a palimpsest of ancient numbers, lost contacts, old girlfriends, former lives.

There was something about the old man's story that was familiar to him, but he couldn't remember what it was. He picked up the cassette recorder, pressed rewind, let it spool back for a while, then pressed play. He held it to his ear and listened to the tinny ghost of Rapava's voice.

". . . Comrade Stalin's room was a plain man's room. You've got to say that for Stalin. He was always one of us . . ."
rewind. play.
". . . and here was an odd thing, boy: He had taken off his shiny new shoes and had them wedged under one fat arm . . ."
rewind. play.
". . . Know what I mean by Blizhny, boy? . . ."
". . . by Blizhny, boy? . . ."
". . . by Blizhny . . ."


From the Audio Cassette edition.

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First Chapter

PART ONE

MOSCOW

To choose one's victims, to prepare one's plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed...there is nothing sweeter in the world. -- J. V. Stalin, in conversation with Kamenev and Dzerzhinsky

Olga Komarova of the Russian Archive Service, Rosarkhiv, wielding a collapsible pink umbrella, prodded and shooed her distinguished charges across the Ukraina's lobby toward the revolving door. It was an old door, of heavy wood and glass, too narrow to cope with more than one body at a time, so the scholars formed a line in the dim light, like parachutists over a target zone, and as they passed her, Olga touched each one lightly on the shoulder with her umbrella, counting them off one by one as they were propelled into the freezing Moscow air.

Franklin Adelman of Yale went first, as befitted his age and status, then Moldenhauer of the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz, with his absurd double doctorate -- Dr. Dr. Karl-bloody-Moldenhauer -- then the neo-Marxists, Enrico Banfi of Milan and Eric Chambers of the LSE, then the great cold warrior Phil Duberstein, of NYU, then Ivo Godelier of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, followed by glum Dave Richards of St. Antony's, Oxford -- another Sovietologist whose world was rubble -- then Velma Byrd of the U.S. National Archive, then Alastair Findlay of Edinburgh's Department of War Studies, who still thought the sun shone out of Comrade Stalin's ass, then Arthur Saunders of Stanford, and finally -- the man whose lateness had kept them waiting in the lobby for an extra five minutes -- Dr. C.R.A. Kelso, commonly known as Fluke.

The door banged hard against his heels. Outside, the weather had worsened. It was trying to snow. Tiny flakes, as hard as grit, came whipping across the wide gray concourse and spattered his face and hair. At the bottom of the flight of steps, shuddering in a cloud of its own white fumes, was a dilapidated bus, waiting to take them to the symposium. Kelso stopped to light a cigarette.

"Jesus, Fluke," called Adelman, cheerfully. "You look just awful."

Kelso raised a fragile hand in acknowledgment. He could see a huddle of taxi drivers in quilted jackets stamping their feet against the cold. Workmen were struggling to lift a roll of tin off the back of a truck. One Korean businessman in a fur hat was photographing a group of twenty others, similarly dressed. But of Papu Rapava, no sign.

"Dr. Kelso, please, we are waiting again." The umbrella wagged at him in reproof. He transferred the cigarette to the corner of his mouth, hitched his bag up onto his shoulder, and moved toward the bus.

"A battered Byron" was how one Sunday newspaper had described him when he had resigned his Oxford lectureship and moved to New York, and the description wasn't a bad one -- curly black hair too long and thick for neatness, a moist, expressive mouth, pale cheeks, and the glow of a certain reputation -- if Byron hadn't died on Missolonghi but had spent the next ten years drinking whiskey, smoking, staying indoors, and resolutely avoiding all exercise, he too might have come to look a little like Fluke Kelso.

He was wearing what he always wore: a faded dark blue shirt of heavy cotton with the top button undone; a loosely knotted and vaguely stained dark tie; a black corduroy suit with a black leather belt, over which his stomach bulged slightly; red cotton handkerchief in his breast pocket; scuffed boots of brown suede; an old blue raincoat. This was Kelso's uniform, unvaried for twenty years.

"Boy," Rapava had called him, and the word was both absurd for a middle-aged man and yet oddly accurate. Boy.

The heater was going full blast. Nobody was saying much. He sat on his own near the back of the bus and rubbed at the wet glass as they jolted up the ramp to join the traffic on the bridge. Across the aisle, Saunders made an ostentatious display of batting Kelso's smoke away. Beneath them, in the filthy waters of the Moskva, a dredger with a crane mounted on its aft deck beat sluggishly upstream.

He nearly hadn't come to Russia. That was the joke of it. He knew well enough what it would be like: the bad food, the stale gossip, the sheer bloody tedium of academic life -- of more and more being said about less and less. That was one reason why he had chucked Oxford and gone to live in New York. But somehow the books he was supposed to write had not quite materialized. And besides, he never could resist the lure of Moscow. Even now, sitting on a stale bus in the Wednesday rush hour, he could feel the charge of history beyond the muddy glass: in the dark and renamed streets, the vast apartment blocks, the toppled statues. It was stronger here than anywhere he knew, stronger even than in Berlin. That was what always drew him back to Moscow -- the way history hung in the air between the blackened buildings like sulfur after a lightning strike.

"You think you know it all about Comrade Stalin, don't you, boy? Well, let me tell you: You don't know fuck."

Kelso had already delivered his short paper, on Stalin and the archives, at the end of the previous day: delivered it in his trademark style -- without notes, with one hand in his pocket, extempore, provocative. His Russian hosts had looked gratifyingly shifty. A couple of people had even walked out. So, all in all, a triumph.

Afterward, finding himself predictably alone, he had decided to walk back to the Ukraina. It was a long walk and it was getting dark, but he needed the air. And at some point -- he couldn't remember where; maybe it was in one of the back streets behind the Institute or maybe it was later, along the Noviy Arbat -- but at some point he had realized he was being followed. It was nothing tangible, just a fleeting impression of something seen too often -- the flash of a coat, perhaps, or the shape of a head -- but Kelso had been in Moscow often enough in the bad old days to know that you were seldom wrong about these things. You always knew if a film was out of synch, however fractionally; you always knew if someone fancied you, however improbably; and you always knew when someone was on your tail.

He had just stepped into his hotel room and was contemplating some primary research in the minibar when the front desk had called up to say there was a man in the lobby who wanted to see him. Who? He wouldn't give his name, sir. But he was most insistent and he wouldn't leave. So Kelso had gone down, reluctantly, and found Papu Rapava sitting on one of the Ukraina's imitation-leather sofas, staring straight ahead, in his papery blue suit, his wrists and ankles sticking out as thin as broomsticks.

"You think you know it all about Comrade Stalin, don't you, boy?" Those had been his opening words.

And that was the moment when Kelso had realized where he had first seen the old man -- at the symposium, in the front row of the public seats, listening intently to the simultaneous translation over his headphones, muttering in violent disagreement at any hostile mention of J. V. Stalin.

Who are you? thought Kelso, staring out of the grimy window. Fantasist? Con man? The answer to a prayer?

* * *

The symposium was scheduled to last only one more day -- for which relief, in Kelso's view, much thanks. It was being held in the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, an orthodox temple of gray concrete, consecrated in the Brezhnev years, with Marx, Engels, and Lenin in gigantic bas-relief above the pillared entrance. The ground floor had been leased to a private bank, since gone bust, which added to the air of dereliction.

On the opposite side of the street, watched by a couple of bored-looking militiamen, a small demonstration was in progress -- maybe a hundred people, mostly elderly, but with a few youths in black berets and leather jackets. It was the usual mixture of fanatics and grudge holders -- Marxists, nationalists, anti-Semites. Crimson flags bearing the hammer and sickle hung beside black flags embroidered with the czarist eagle. One old lady carried a picture of Stalin; another sold cassettes of SS marching songs. An elderly man with an umbrella held over him was addressing the crowd through a bullhorn, his voice a distorted, metallic rant. Stewards were handing out a free newspaper called Aurora.

"Take no notice," instructed Olga Komarova, standing up beside the driver. She tapped the side of her head. "These are crazy people. Red fascists."

"What's he saying?" demanded Duberstein, who was considered a world authority on Soviet communism even though he had never quite gotten around to learning Russian.

"He's talking about how the Hoover Institution tried to buy the Party archive for five million bucks," said Adelman. "He says we're trying to steal their history."

Duberstein sniggered. "Who'd want to steal their goddamn history?" He tapped on the window with his signet ring. "Say, isn't that a TV crew?" The sight of a camera caused a predictable, wistful stir among the academics.

"I believe so..."

"How very flattering..."

"What's the name," said Adelman, "of the fellow who runs Aurora? Is it still the same one?" He twisted around in his seat and called up the aisle. "Fluke -- you should know. What's his name? Old KGB -- "

"Mamantov," said Kelso. The driver braked hard, and he had to swallow to stop himself from being sick. "Vladimir Mamantov."

"Crazy people," repeated Olga, bracing herself as they came to a stop. "I apologize on behalf of Rosarkhiv. They are not representative. Follow me, please. Ignore them."

They filed off the bus, and a television cameraman filmed them as they trudged across the asphalt forecourt, past a couple of drooping, silvery fir trees, pursued by jeers.

Fluke Kelso moved delicately at the rear of the column, nursing his hangover, holding his head at a careful angle, as if he were balancing a pitcher of water. A pimply youth in wire spectacles thrust a copy of Aurora at him, and Kelso got a quick glimpse of the front page -- a cartoon caricature of Zionist conspirators and a weird cabalistic symbol that was something between a swastika and a red cross -- before he rammed it back in the young man's chest. The demonstrators jeered.

A thermometer on the wall outside the entrance read minus one. The old nameplate had been taken down and a new one had been screwed in its place, but it didn't quite fit, so you could tell that the building had been renamed. It now proclaimed itself THE RUSSIAN CENTER FOR THE PRESERVATION AND STUDY OF DOCUMENTS RELATING TO MODERN HISTORY.

Once again, Kelso lingered behind after the others had gone in, squinting at the hate-filled faces across the street. There were a lot of old men of a similar age, pinched and raw-cheeked in the cold, but Rapava wasn't among them. He turned away and moved inside, into the shadowy lobby, where he gave his coat and bag to the cloakroom attendant before passing beneath the familiar statue of Lenin toward the lecture hall.

Another day began.

There were ninety-one delegates at the symposium, and almost all of them seemed to be crowded into the small anteroom where coffee was being served. He collected his cup and lit another cigarette.

"Who's up first?" said a voice behind him. It was Adelman.

"Askenov, I think. On the microfilm project."

Adelman groaned. He was a Bostonian, in his seventies, at that twilight stage in his career when most of his life seemed to be spent in airplanes or foreign hotels: symposia, conferences, honorary degrees -- Duberstein maintained that Adelman had given up pursuing history in favor of collecting air miles. But Kelso didn't begrudge him his honors. He was good. And brave. It had taken courage to write his kind of books, thirty years ago, on the Famine and the Terror, when every other useful idiot in academia was screeching for détente.

"Listen, Frank," he said. "I'm sorry about dinner."

"Forget it. You got a better offer?"

"Kind of."

The refreshment room was at the back of the Institute and looked out onto an inner courtyard, in the center of which, dumped on their sides amid the weeds, were a pair of statues, of Marx and Engels -- a couple of Victorian gentlemen taking time off from the long march of history for a morning doze.

"They don't mind taking down those two," said Adelman. "That's easy. They're foreigners. And one of them's a Jew. It's when they take down Lenin -- that's when you'll know the place has really changed."

Kelso took another sip of coffee. "A man came to see me last night."

"A man? I'm disappointed."

"Could I ask your advice, Frank?"

Adelman shrugged. "Go ahead."

"In private?"

* * *

Adelman stroked his chin. "You got his name, this guy?"

"Of course I got his name."

"His real name?"

"How do I know if it's his real name?"

"His address, then? You got his address?"

"No, Frank, I didn't get his address. But he did leave these."

Adelman took off his glasses and peered closely at the book of matches. "It's a setup," he said at last, handing them back. "I wouldn't touch it. Whoever heard of a bar called Robotnik, anyhow? 'Worker'? Sounds phony to me."

"But if it was a setup," said Kelso, weighing the matchbook in his palm, "why would he run away?"

"Obviously, because he doesn't want it to look like a setup. He wants you to have to work at it -- track him down, persuade him to help you. That's the psychology of a clever fraud -- the victims wind up doing so much chasing around, they start wanting to believe it's true. Remember the Hitler diaries. Either that or he's a lunatic."

"He was very convincing."

"Lunatics often are. Or it's a practical joke. Someone wants to make you look a fool. Have you thought of that? You're not exactly the most popular kid in the school."

Kelso glanced up the corridor toward the lecture hall. It wasn't a bad theory. There were plenty in there who didn't like him. He had appeared on too many television programs, knocked out too many newspaper columns, reviewed too many of their useless books. Saunders was loitering at the corner, pretending to talk to Moldenhauer, both men obviously straining to overhear what he was saying to Adelman. Saunders had complained bitterly after Kelso's paper about his "subjectivity": "Why was he even invited? That's what one wants to know. One had been given to understand this was a symposium for serious scholars..."

Excerpted from Archangel by Robert Harris. Copyright © 1999 by Robert Harris. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Stalin's legacy brought to light in this thriller!

    Okay, maybe thriller isn't the right word but Robert Harris does another excellent job with a historic character here. He entwines history with fiction and modernity in such a way that other writers should take notes. I have always had an affinity for Russian based novels but I think this would appeal to others as well. I loved it and would love to read another book involving a character or two from this. Great stuff!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2005

    Really 3.5 stars

    I recently finished Archangel and have read Harris's two previous books - Fatherland and Engima. While I don't think Archangel creates the epic quality of the first two books, it is quite a lot better than most international political thrillers that I've read. It's not a 'riveting' thrillers (until the last 20 pages - although you might find it to be rushed) because Harris never emotionally draws us into his main character Fluke. The books's strong points are it's lively evocation of modern Russia - I've been there and it captures some of the essence of the country- and its powerful metaphor for the country's social system, now and past. I recommend it if you're out of great authors to read and in need of something new, intelligent and a bit outlandish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2004

    Is Stalinism really dead?

    The search for Stalin¿s secret notebook brings a British historian to a modern-day Russia struggling to come to terms with its Capitalistic reforms. There the historian finds something more shocking than even he could have imagined hidden away in a far-flung northern outpost of Russia. Perhaps Stalinism is not dead after all. This tightly-written novel will keep you on the edge of your seat right up to the end of the book; I recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2002

    cold

    In terms of creating an atmosphere, Harris proved himself allready with Fatherland, but in that respect he exceeds himself in this novel. The setting, the atmosphere is cold and chilling to the bone. A sence of emptyness and hopelessness comes over you, once you start reading this master-piece. Russia after the fall of communism and the unburied past from that period comes to live and the somewhat hopeless quest of Kelso for a notebook is gripping. The characters are brilliantly set and with regard to the plot.. it is very seldom, that one comes across a story-line and ending of a novel that satisfies so much as the one in Archangel. Truly a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2001

    TOO SPELLBINDING TO PUT DOWN

    A setting that chills the bone; a premise that chills the heart. These are the pillars of Archangel, a tension driven third novel by former BBC correspondent and London Times columnist Robert Harris. As in Fatherland (1992), with its disturbing thesis that Nazi Germany had been victorious in World War II and Hitler still lived, Mr. Harris skillfully blends fact and fiction to craft an equally frightening tale of contemporary Russia. 'There can be no doubt that it is Stalin rather than Hitler who is the most alarming figure of the twentieth century.....Stalin, unlike Hitler has not been exorcised....Stalin stands in a historical tradition of rule by terror, which existed before him, which he refined, and which could exist again. His, not Hitler's, is the specter that should worry us.' These words are spoken by 'Fluke' Kelso, an antithetic hero, to be sure. Thrice divorced, an unsuccessful writer, he is a historian, a Sovietologist who greets alcohol with enthusiasm and his colleagues with ennui. In unforgivingly frigid Moscow, where 'air tasted of Asia - of dust and soot and Eastern spices, cheap gasoline, black tobacco, sweat,' Kelso is a part of a symposium invited to view recently opened archival materials. He is visited in his hotel room by Papu Rapava, an older man, a drunk, 'a survivor of the Arctic Circle camps,' who claims to have been an eye-witness to Stalin's death. Rapava says he was once bodyguard and chauffeur for Laventy Beria, the chief of the secret police. Rapava claims to have accompanied Beria to Stalin's room the night the GenSec suffered a stroke, and to have assisted Beria in stealing Stalin's private papers, a black oilskin notebook, which was later buried. As Kelso decides to spend his final day in Moscow either refuting or corroborating Rapava's story, the writer comes face to face with Mamantov, a Stalinist who feels 'the force of Comrade Stalin, even from the grave,' and lives amidst the ex-dictator's memorabilia - miniatures, boxes, stamps, medals. Surveying the collection, Kelso shudders, remembering that today one in six Russians believe Stalin to be their greatest leader. 'Stalin was seven times more popular than Boris Yeltsin, while poor old Gorbachev hadn't even scored enough votes to register.' As Kelso becomes convinced that Stalin's secret papers do exist and obsessed with finding them, he is dogged by R. J. O'Brian, an overly zealous reporter whose beat is the world. But, once the notebook is found instead of holding answers, it poses more questions. The last piece of the puzzle may lie in Archangel, a desolate White Sea port where 'Everything had decayed. The facades of the buildings were pitted and peeling. Parts of the road had subsided.' Together Kelso and O'Brian drive 800 miles across an eerily deserted frozen landscape to reach Archangel before a storm rolling in from Siberia buries them or pursuing government agents capture them. What the two find, Stalin's long hidden secret, is more appalling than either of them could have imagined. With ever escalating suspense Mr. Harris catapults his mesmerizing narrative to a shocking denouement Film rights for this unsettling tale have been sold to Mel Gibson, and it will surely capture a slot on bestseller lists.. Archangel is too close to possible for comfort, and too spellbinding to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2000

    A great historical fiction novel.

    This is one book that resonates in your head after you finish reading it, demonstrating the realistic effect a good book like this makes you feel. The author does a great job researching the intricate details of modern Russian history along with its turbulent Stalinist past, and the characters are well described, especially Kelso. Some parts of the book may seem like a drag, but in all, this is a highly enjoyable book, if you are into historical-based fictional novels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2000

    Look carefully and you will find a masterpiece

    Archangel is one of the finest book I have read, ever. Harris' work is a masterpiece that deserves inclusion in the Western Canon. First, the writing is outstanding. Every paragraph is clear, compelling, bristling with ideation. Not once does the reader groan at an ill-wrought sentence. Second, the book offers a deep psychological analysis of the callousness and homocidal mania among the 20th Centuries political thugs--the compensatory processes by which they quelled their own inner demons by killing every decent person who crossed their paths and reminded them of their inability to love. Along these lines of character development, its portrait of Anna's mother is a masterpiece of irony--she is a narrow, naive, blockheaded woman who cannot see her way to understand that the man she idealizes is a monstrous brute who destroyed her family, each one in a different way, who had her beloved daughter slaughtered to hide the monstrosity of his venal sexual crime. The characterization of Stalin's son is anything but a silly confection: it is an allegorical portrait. He personifies the amalgamation of genetic degeneration running in Stalin's genes with the depraved idea of raising this criminally conceived boy in the ice cold forests of northern Russia by a handful of minor sadists. What results is a demented anti-Christ babbling Stalinist jargon--a beautifully wrought rendering of poltical doublespeak in which the vapidity of Stalin's slogans is brought home with bristling clarity. Third, the marvelous way Harris incorporates quotes from Stalin's own speeches and stories from his political career (such as having an air force general shot for criticizing Stalin's callous military machinery) adds a historical depth that further enriches the book. Fourth, The ending is philosophically spectacular. Amidst all the male bumbling (the brilliant Kelso is manipulated like a child, the bright, reflective, well-meaning urbanite Suvorin falls apart when confronted by the raw elements outside his sheltered Moscow environment), Zinaida arises as a personification of gritty commonsense cutting to the core of the central theme in modern Russian history. After witnessing and enduring the Stalinist destruction of her own family, she is seized by a primal urge to arrest these stupid, brutish forces that are laying waste to her country. Stepping out into the rushing river of history, she does what none of the men have the courage or understanding to do--she slays the monster with a simple act of architypal clarity--either fight bravely or watch as more families are dismembered by the monster. This is a monumental tale of human families vs. simple-minded capitulation to insectoidal brutes. Archangel deserves a Pulitzer!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2000

    Enthraling read from the word go!!!!

    Gripping novel, setting plays a huge part and adds greatly to this novel. It wouldn't be the same if it wasn't Russia. if you haven't read it why not????

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2000

    Excellent!!!!!!

    For those of you with a fond memory of Ira Levin's 'The Boys from Brazil,' this is sure to be a zinger. Harris vividly portrays the political and economic void of contemporary Russia that is caught between its history its present and what could be its ultimate and recurring future. The set up of the story is like an whodunnit? We have to follow the main character Fluke as he tries to understand what is going on around him. It is not until the final pages that we truly understand the magnitude and scope of the problem Fluke is embroiled in. Ira Levin eat your heart out! This is the book you wanted to write! I enjoyed 'Fatherland' immensely but I have to say that this one tops it. Don't pay attention to the naysayers out there discover this story for yourself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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