The Silent Oligarch

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“A happy partner to the work of Deighton, Archer, and le Carré... carried on craftily understated prose that approaches cold poetry… a first-class novel." (Booklist, starred review)

Racing between London and Moscow, Kazakstan and the Caymans, The Silent Oligarch reveals a sinister unexplored world where the wealthy buy the justice they want—and the silence they need. Here private spy agencies duel for dominance, governments eagerly defer to the highest bidder, and colossal ...

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The Silent Oligarch: A Novel

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Overview

“A happy partner to the work of Deighton, Archer, and le Carré... carried on craftily understated prose that approaches cold poetry… a first-class novel." (Booklist, starred review)

Racing between London and Moscow, Kazakstan and the Caymans, The Silent Oligarch reveals a sinister unexplored world where the wealthy buy the justice they want—and the silence they need. Here private spy agencies duel for dominance, governments eagerly defer to the highest bidder, and colossal wealth is amassed through shadowy networks of companies. But where the money actually flows—and who benefits from such corruption—is something necessarily hidden, sometimes in plain sight.

Behind the imposing splendor of the Kremlin rises a run-down office building, home to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources. A nondescript bureaucrat in a drab government agency, Konstanin Malin secretly controls a vast business that dominates the nation’s oil industry, making him one of the most feared and wealthy men in Russia. Over the years Malin has siphoned billions from the state and poured them into his private empire, hiding what he owns offshore.

The man who has done the hiding is Richard Lock, a diffident English lawyer whose life in Moscow is falling apart: criss-crossing the world administering his master’s affairs, he has seen his relationships with his estranged family and highly practical mistress slowly deteriorating. Lock is bound to Malin by marriage, complacency, greed, and most of all by a complex lie that neither can escape. But slowly, Lock is beginning to realise that the lie will not always hold.

Once an idealistic young journalist, Benjamin Webster now works as an investigator at a London corporate intelligence firm, a mercenary spy for the rich and powerful. Webster’s cynicism and anger were born when he witnessed a colleague murdered in Russia for asking too many tough questions; now, ten years later, he may finally be able to avenge her unsolved murder. Hired by a client to ruin Malin, he discovers that this shadowy figure may have arranged his friend’s gruesome death—to hide a terrible secret buried at the heart of his criminal empire.

Soon Webster realizes that Lock is Malin’s great weakness; and when he starts to apply pressure, Lock’s fragile world begins to crack. His colleagues begin dying mysteriously, his relationship with Malin turns ominously ice-cold. The police begin asking questions, the newspapers smell blood in the water, and Webster’s investigators close in on the truth. Suddenly Lock is running for his life—though from Malin or Webster, the law or his own past, he couldn’t say.

A heart-pounding hunt around the world, through opulent boardrooms and anonymous hotels, The Silent Oligarch is a chilling and unforgettable novel of our time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jones’s smart first novel, a taut thriller about a money-laundering Russian oligarch, invites favorable comparisons to the work of John le Carré. British-born Richard Lock, a lawyer and front man for Russian oil minister Konstantin Malin, is being sued by Greek businessman Aristotle Tourna, who believes he has been grievously wronged by the Russian minister. When Tourna hires a London investigative firm, Ikertu Consulting, to get the goods on Malin, Ikertu investigator Ben Webster is eager to take the job because he believes Malin is complicit in the death of his Russian journalist friend, Inessa. This fine character study presents Lock as conflicted and fearful, wanting to escape his position and flee Russia, while Webster comes to realize that justice in this case is not as black and white as he would like to believe. Readers will look forward to the follow-up from the talented Jones, who worked for 11 years at Kroll, the world’s largest business intelligence company. (Jan.)
Booklist
"This is a happy partner to the work of Deighton, Archer, and le Carré... Mysterious men, cryptic of speech and beautifully tailored, move through glittery settings-seacoasts, grand hotels, swank neighborhoods—carried on craftily understated prose that approaches cold poetry. Rows of massive buildings 'bullied all the leaves off the bare limes and left the trees cowering in the middle of the road.' Ben Webster is a snoop employed by a London corporate espionage firm. His boss' client has hired the company to bring down a Kremlin functionary, the toadlike Malin, whose manipulation of Russia's oil industry is making him a trillionaire. Webster attempts to get at the toad through his dithering money launderer, Richard Lock. Reader identification is complete. We'd like to be Webster-tough, smart-but we know we're really more like Lock, not as bright and strong as we wish. Men are betrayed. Drugged. Kidnapped. Tossed off buildings. Downed by snipers. If the good guys win, it's at such a cost they're left wondering if they accomplished anything. They did. They were part of a first-class novel."
Booklist
Booklist
This is a happy partner to the work of Deighton, Archer, and le Carré. Mysterious men, cryptic of speech and beautifully tailored, move through glittery settings—seacoasts, grand hotels, swank neighborhoods—carried on craftily understated prose that approaches cold poetry. Rows of massive buildings "bullied all the leaves off the bare limes and left the trees cowering in the middle of the road." Ben Webster is a snoop employed by a London corporate espionage firm. His boss' client has hired the company to bring down a Kremlin functionary, the toadlike Malin, whose manipulation of Russia's oil industry is making him a trillionaire. Webster attempts to get at the toad through his dithering money launderer, Richard Lock. Reader identification is complete. We'd like to be Webster—tough, smart—but we know we're really more like Lock, not as bright and strong as we wish. Men are betrayed. Drugged. Kidnapped. Tossed off buildings. Downed by snipers. If the good guys win, it's at such a cost they're left wondering if they accomplished anything. They did. They were part of a first-class novel. — Don Crinklaw
Library Journal
Fans of thrillers, especially those set in present-day Russia, will welcome the supernova that has burst onto the spy and suspense scene. First published in Britain as An Agent of Deceit, this debut financial puzzler imagines a Kremlin minister with a boundless fortune in energy resources. His byzantine transactions are shielded and laundered by an amiable Dutch lawyer. The cozy relationships crater when investigators, chief among them a principled journalist, begin to gnaw on fresh leads to expose accounts vulnerable to taxmen and lawsuits. The lawyer and the journalist are drawn relentlessly into a death spiral choreographed by the author, himself a player in the corporate intelligence community. VERDICT With a mysterious, complex plot and terrific local color, this novel resonates to the pounding heartbeats of the boldly drawn main characters. John le Carré, Martin Cruz Smith, and Brent Ghelfi will be inching over in the book display so readers in search of erudite, elegant international intrigue can spot the newcomer. [See Prepub Alert, 7/5/11.]—Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA
Kirkus Reviews
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.
Kevin Allman
…a story of quiet suspense and international espionage…Jones does a nice job of keeping the focus on the people involved rather than the minutiae of corporate espionage, and his pace is leisurely but never slow.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594203190
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 1/19/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.76 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

For eleven years CHRIS MORGAN JONES worked at the world’s largest business intelligence agency. He has advised Middle Eastern governments, Russian oligarchs, New York banks, London hedge funds, and African mining companies. The Silent Oligarch is his first novel.

www.chrismorganjones.com

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Pretty Good

    This is an intelligent thriller about a Russian oligarch thought to be involved in nefarious dealings, and his main man who wants out. Lives are in peril as a western investigator who lost a friend to murder in the new Russia tries to help. The book is exciting without having bombs blasting and car chases. Things trip up however when the action moves to Berlin. Predictably a problem arises there and its resolution does not seem as smart as the book had appeared to be until now. So, off to a good start. If you like the resolution, then the book might get five stars from you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 13, 2012

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    A Thrilling Read for Fans of International Intrigue

    For a first book, Chris Morgan Jones writes like a seasoned professional. He weaves a story that draws the reader into the world of money laundering and the iron fists that rule.

    Konstantin Malin is a key player with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Russia controlling half of the oil industry. He is a diabolical and ruthless man who controls his underlings like puppets on a string, praising them for a job well done or mercilessly punishing them for not living up to his expectations. Richard Lock is a money launderer working for Malin selling companies to investors by making promises that are not met.

    Aristotle Tourna bought a company with promised licenses for oil and gas exploration. When the deal was complete, Tourna found the licenses had been transferred to another company. Tourna was enraged by this and hires Ikerru, an international corporate intelligence firm to bring down Malin. Benjamin Webster is the investigator who is assigned to gather intelligence on Malin’s empire inevitably zeroing in on Lock as a key player.

    As Webster pursues leads talking to people connected to Malin and his shady dealings, his contacts begin dying. Police are ruling the deaths as suicides but Webster isn’t convinced. Webster and Lock finally connect and come to a meeting of the minds; it’s time for Lock to get out before he dies. But Lock doesn’t know whom he can trust, if anyone at all.

    Chris Morgan Jones writes from knowledge. He has worked advising Middle Eastern governments, Russian oligarchs, banking and mining companies in Africa. Although this is his first novel, he proves a talent for writing that will have the reader turning pages as fast as they can. I highly recommend this read for fans of international intrigue and spy thrillers.

    Reviewed by Jodi Hanson for Suspense Magazine

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Who Holds the Strings of Power?

    The Silent Oli­garch by Chris Mor­gan Jones is a fic­tional book about those in the shad­ows which hold the strings of power.

    Eng­lish lawyer Richard Lock owns a com­pany, but the Russ­ian oli­garch Kon­statin Malin owns Lock. The com­pany is a front to laun­der money in a com­plex web which enables Malin to con­trol the Russ­ian oil industry.

    When a com­peti­tor tries to destroy Malin, Lock finds him­self stuck in the mid­dle. For the first time in his life Lock is being pushed to the edge in a very dan­ger­ous game with sin­is­ter peo­ple who con­trol it.

    oli­garchy
    1: gov­ern­ment by the few
    2: a gov­ern­ment in which a small group exer­cises con­trol espe­cially for cor­rupt and self­ish pur­poses; also : a group exer­cis­ing such con­trol
    3: an orga­ni­za­tion under oli­garchic control

    The Silent Oli­garch by Chris Mor­gan Jones is an inter­est­ing book filled with great detail about Lon­don, Moscow and Berlin as well as the lifestyle of rich Rus­sians. The story is filled with inter­est­ing atmos­pheric nuances about the new Rus­sia.

    The book is some­what com­plex, read­ing it was like walk­ing through a maze and the reader had to pay atten­tion. Jones writes like an insider, not only in the com­plex details of shell com­pa­nies but also into the mind­set of those who con­trol them and those who are being con­trolled. The reader can feel the boss’ is calm, col­lected, reserved yet men­ac­ing demeanor while being able to relate to the gen­uine panic of others.

    What I liked about this book is that the bad guy, Kon­statin Malin, is a very sin­is­ter fel­low and even though he doesn’t have a big role in the book, his pres­ence is cer­tainly felt on almost every page. The novel moves for­ward at a decent pace and seemed, at least to me, very close to reality.

    There are no big bat­tles, heroic acts or moral absolutes. The oppo­site actu­ally, just like in real life there are plenty of moral ambi­gu­ity for every char­ac­ter in this story while keep­ing the actual vio­lence to a min­i­mum.
    While the book is about Rus­sia, once can draw par­al­lels to the US when it comes to oli­garchy. I cer­tainly don’t think it’s as bad as it is, or was, there but we can all see who pulls the purse strings in Con­gress (pizza is a veg­etable?).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2012

    Very Slow

    good for insomnia

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 14, 2012

    A fast paced novel that left me wanting more

    I don't normally read thrillers, preferring lighter mysteries, but the premise of this book intrigued me. Not only was I pleasantly surprised, but I also got a great history lesson as a bonus. The author weaved his fast paced plot through Russia, London, Berlin, and the Riviera and carried me right along with him. By the time I hit the halfway mark, I began to wonder why it has taken me so long to read this genre. If The Silent Oligarch is representative of the genre, count me in for more, especially if they're penned by Mr. Jones.

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    Posted February 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted February 19, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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