The Silent Oligarch

The Silent Oligarch

3.2 8
by Christopher Morgan Jones
     
 

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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

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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.

Christopher Morgan Jones's newest book, The Searcher, will be published by Penguin Press on March 22nd, 2016. 

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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.)
From the Publisher
"From Chris Morgan Jones, an absolutely terrific novel. It''s about international intrigue-but the real deal. The Silent Oligarch is beautifully written, clean and terse, but you won''t notice, because you''ll be reading just as fast as you can. Very highly recommended, and you''ll want more."
Alan Furst, author of SPIES OF THE BALKAN and NIGHT SOLDIERS

"A beautifully written thriller about how the power of money has been replacing the power of the state in the former Soviet Union, and how the West is no closer to understanding the way things work there than we ever were... The Silent Oligarch is a smashing debut that will leave most readers anxious to follow Webster on his next assignment."
CONNECTICUT POST

"An understated debut that carries a special resonance in the wake of Putin's bare-knuckled presidential victory. The plot hinges on three men - one bad, one good and one gutless - whose work revolves around the billions of dollars and other assets that slither in and out of opaque jurisdictions stretching from the Cayman Islands to Vanuatu. Like the spies in a John le Carre novel, they are surprisingly plausible… Jones handles the large cast of characters and shifting venues with grace."
BLOOMBERG

"This is a happy partner to the work of Deighton, Archer, and le Carre. 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… 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 (starred)

"Like the icy eastern winter that seeps through the pages of his novel, Jones's prose is clean and cold, crisp and ominous. In its intelligence, its crispness, its refusal to recognise anything other than shades of grey, there are undoubtedly resonances of Le Carre here. But [The Silent Oligarch] is too good to need the publishing shorthand for "classy thriller": this is a debut that definitely stands on its own merits."
THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Jones weaves an engaging narrative that... confronts the dilemma of the west's engagement with dubious characters and companies.
THE FINANCIAL TIMES

"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

"Fans of thrillers, especially those set in present-day Russia, will welcome the supernova that has burst onto the spy and suspense scene . . With a mysterious, complex plot and terrific local color, this novel resonates to the pounding heartbeats of the boldly drawn main characters. John le Carre, 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."
LIBRARY JOURNAL

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
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:
01/19/2012
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.76(h) x 1.12(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"From Chris Morgan Jones, an absolutely terrific novel. It's about international intrigue—but the real deal. The Silent Oligarch is beautifully written, clean and terse, but you won't notice, because you'll be reading just as fast as you can. Very highly recommended, and you'll want more."
— Alan Furst, author of SPIES OF THE BALKAN and NIGHT SOLDIERS

"A beautifully written thriller about how the power of money has been replacing the power of the state in the former Soviet Union, and how the West is no closer to understanding the way things work there than we ever were... The Silent Oligarch is a smashing debut that will leave most readers anxious to follow Webster on his next assignment."
— CONNECTICUT POST

An understated debut that carries a special resonance in the wake of Putin’s bare-knuckled presidential victory. The plot hinges on three men — one bad, one good and one gutless — whose work revolves around the billions of dollars and other assets that slither in and out of opaque jurisdictions stretching from the Cayman Islands to Vanuatu. Like the spies in a John le Carre novel, they are surprisingly plausible… Jones handles the large cast of characters and shifting venues with grace.
— BLOOMBERG

“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… 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 (starred)

"Like the icy eastern winter that seeps through the pages of his novel, Jones's prose is clean and cold, crisp and ominous. In its intelligence, its crispness, its refusal to recognise anything other than shades of grey, there are undoubtedly resonances of Le Carré here. But [The Silent Oligarch] is too good to need the publishing shorthand for "classy thriller": this is a debut that definitely stands on its own merits."
— THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Jones weaves an engaging narrative that... confronts the dilemma of the west’s engagement with dubious characters and companies.
— THE FINANCIAL TIMES

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

"Fans of thrillers, especially those set in present-day Russia, will welcome the supernova that has burst onto the spy and suspense scene . . 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."
— LIBRARY JOURNAL

Alan Furst
"From Chris Morgan Jones, an absolutely terrific novel. It's about international intrigue—but the real deal. The Silent Oligarch is beautifully written, clean and terse, but you won't notice, because you'll be reading just as fast as you can. Very highly recommended, and you'll want more."
—Alan Furst, author of Spies of the Balkans and Night Soldiers

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