Red to Black

Red to Black

by Alex Dryden

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Red to Black by Alex Dryden

Red to Black has more in common with the elegantly paced books of John le Carré than it does with Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. But readers who appreciate a healthy dose of real-world worries in their spy novels won’t complain.”
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Gorky Park for the Putin era, Red To Black by Alex Dryden could have been ripped from recent headlines. At once a spy thriller, a love story, and a chilling look at a dangerously resurgent superpower, it is a masterful work that Stephen Fry calls, “Brilliant and unforgettable….Nothing short of miraculous.” Welcome to the New Russia.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062085870
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/29/2011
Series: Anna Rensikov , #1
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 480
Product dimensions: 4.32(w) x 8.52(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Alex Dryden is a writer and journalist with many years of experience in security matters. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Dryden watched the statues of Lenin fall across the former Soviet Union.

Anne Flosnik is an accomplished, multi-award-winning British actress, with lead credits for stage, television, commercials, industrials, voice-overs, and audiobooks. She has garnered three AudioFile Earphones Awards, including for Little Bee by Chris Cleave, and four Audie Award nominations.

Read an Excerpt

Red to Black

Chapter One

I don't know who I'm writing this for but perhaps it's for you. If that makes it sound like a confession, you may wonder what I'm expecting in return. A small part of me, I admit, seeks forgiveness, or at least understanding. But that part of me is less important than the forgiveness I wish to give myself, and which I find elusive.

I am writing to draw a line under the past, with its rot creep­ing into the present. I know now that if I had done this a long time ago, the present would never have been postponed and things would be different today.

In one of his more fatalistic moments, Finn said to me: 'Anna, you know our story can never be written.'

'Why not?' I asked him.

'Nobody would believe it,' he said.

But I'm here now, sitting in a medieval vault in a house in Tegern­see on the southern borders of Germany, reading Finn's story — our story — and I'm aware that all I have between me and the hostile forces that swim up at me from the pages is the Contender handgun and the twelve rifle shells on the table by my hand. And now that I've found these notebooks of his, or books of record, as he calls them, buried in this vault along with all the other material of our secret profession, I see his fatalism was short-lived. As I sift through the piles of notebooks, oddments, scraps and sheets of paper, documents and microfiches — their edges stained with cellar dampness — with only the heat of an oil burner to keep me warm, I can see that he has practically written our story himself.

The notebooks certainly contain the facts and, without these facts, my feelings wouldbe drifting in a vacuum, unmoored to the reality that at any moment I may need to use this gun and all my years of training to kill my way out of here. Feelings need to be clothed in reality and the facts — this story — supply the clothes. For days now, I have been reading and rereading Finn's prose, notes and observations — over and over. I'm reading them sitting in this dark stone vault and my eyes are running from the fumes of the oil burner and I strain in the dim light to follow the thread of a story that began long before I met Finn.

According to one note Finn made, our story begins in 1998, when Boris Yeltsin's Russia reached its nadir. A later scrawl in Finn's undisciplined handwriting names 1989 as the beginning, the year the Berlin Wall came down at last. But another, perhaps more thoughtful, observation says that it all started in 1961, when we Russians erected the Wall in the first place.

Whatever the true beginning, however, everything Finn and I have experienced will continue to unfold into a dark and uncertain future, with or without us.

As I read all his disparate and complementary records, the thing that strikes me most deeply about what Finn experienced in his long quest to have the truth accepted in his own country is his sheer obstinacy, the relentless autopilot of individual human endeavour when success seems impossible.

What also strikes me is that Finn's past has dictated his life, much as my past has dictated mine.

'You cannot escape your past, Anna,' he once told me. 'But you don't have to live in it. You don't have to build the present in its image.'

If only Finn had been true to his own belief.

Finn could have had a quiet life. That is the point, I realise, as I sit here shivering in the damp cold. He told me that he chose to pursue this quest, not just for the truth, but to have the truth accepted by his masters in London, and their political masters in the British Government. But did he really choose? Or was it his deep-seated need for acceptance that fed his stubbornness and single-mindedness?

For my part, I know I'm looking for someone or something to find responsible for my own actions, but I can't escape my part.

Oh yes, Finn could have had a quiet life, a beautiful life. He had a great talent for doing nothing, which he called happiness, but he chose to go alone down the Tunnel, as he calls it here, and I hope I'm not deluding myself when I say he would not regret that now, whatever's happened to him. For Finn has disappeared and, as I wait for the crash of sledgehammers against the door upstairs, I'm looking for a clue to tell me something, anything that might help me to find him.

There is much, too, about Finn himself in these notebooks which distracts me from my increasingly urgent task. There are details of his internal struggle to understand his motives, a struggle which I never fully understood, and that he never told me, despite the fusion of our love. During all the time I've known Finn, he never wanted to bring his own past like an evil spirit into our house. So he wrote it down in the notebooks and buried it with our secret story in this vault, which has hidden many things and many people in its long history.

And there is much in the notebooks about his feelings towards me.

'There are three distinct spirits in our relationship,' Finn once said to my grandmother at the dacha in Barvikha. This was back in the freezing winter weeks leading up to the millennium, when perhaps he and I were at our closest, and when trouble seemed far away. 'There's Anna, me and the spirit that joins us.' My grand­mother, with her peasant background, was comfortable with the world of spirits. She laughed with mirth and hugged him. Like many people whose lives he touched, Nana loved Finn.

Finn had just given me a charm bracelet. It contained two charms: a rabbit for me and a monkey for him. It was his nickname for me, Rabbit.

'The silver circle that links the charms,' he said, 'is the spirit that joins us.'

'I'm not sure I believe in spirits,' I said.

'I find I can't do without them,' he said breezily.

'How sentimental,' I replied.

But it was typical of Finn instinctively to sense the language, the context, of whoever he was talking to. Nana appreciated his inclusion of spirits. Nana was very super­stitious and, my mother told me, she was also psychic. With her deep grey eyes that glinted over her sharp, hooked nose, she even looked witch-like. When Finn described his relationship with me in this way, she replied as if foreseeing the future.

'If only that were true,' she said. 'If only you, Anna and the spirit that joins you both really were the only three things in your relationship. God bless you.'

At this moment, in the cellar, I pause over another scrap of paper he wrote about us, on some Luxembourg hotel notepad. I'm mesmerised by what he's written and can almost feel his presence here, through the words.

'When we make love, and we look into each other's eyes, I see the child in you, Anna, the spirit in you, and in those moments you are me and I am you.'

It is these brief, aching glimpses of our intimacy that distract me from my task and, to keep my mind away from such thoughts and focused on the present danger, I sit and listen for the slightest sound. Then I slot the gun's firing pin into the mechanism and slide a single round of green spot ammunition into the chamber. With this weapon, I can kill a man at over two hundred yards.

Red to Black. Copyright © by Alex Dryden. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Emma Thompson

“Terrifying, quite frankly . . . chillingly unputdownable—everything you didn’t want to know about Putin but were afraid to ask.”

Stephen Fry

“Alex Dryden’s brilliant and unforgettable novel has told me more about the making of modern Russia than I could learn from all books of journalism and contemporary history combined...nothing short of miraculous.”

From the Publisher

"Alex Dryden is the real thing. If he got any realer, he would step out of the pages and physically punch you, with both elegance and regret." —-Hugh Laurie

Customer Reviews

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Red to Black 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
After reading the sequel to this book, The Moscow Sting, I thought I would enjoy this one as much. But I was wrong. It's almost as if a different person wrote this one. It is much more of a textbook on Russian history with some spy stuff thrown in. So many names to learn, along with all those acronyms. The "thriller" aspect of the second novel is only a feint heartbeat in this one. So take a look at The Moscow Sting and forget this one. You won't miss much.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book a lot. If you like spy books or have any interest in how Russia is today, you will probably like it too. The main characters are fictional, but the government leaders of Russia are real and you get a sense of the truth behind Russia's facade of "democracy". Admittedly, it gets a little slow. It is a lot of explaining people and stories, but the way it is set up as flashbacks keeps the energy going. If all you really want is action, the second or third book in this series would suit you better. You could probably read them without reading this one even. But this one is only a dollar, and I don't think you would understand Anna very well at all without reading it. And Anna is awesome! Four stars, because it is a bit slow in the middle, but great characters, interesting plot, and intriguing insight into the cold power of Russia today. I really loved the whole series. Quick summary. Anna Resnikov is a colonel in the KGB, while Finn is a British spy. After being assigned by their respective countries to seduce information from each other, Anna and Finn begin to fall in love. But now Finn is missing, and Anna has to choose between her love for Finn and her love for a Russia that no longer exists, morphed and destroyed by its new government under Putin and the KGB elite.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In 1999 Moscow, Russian FSB intelligence Colonel Anna, daughter of a KGB spymaster meets Finn, a British M16 operative who allegedly is a trade secretary, but everyone in the field knows his real vocation, which he does not bother to conceal. He is aware of who's who like his peers are. He knows who Anna is and she knows who he is. Each is aware of the Putin "Plan". Finn arranges for his return to England where he retires; knowing full well the suspicious Russians will not believe he is out of the cold. Like Pavlov's dogs, Putin's KGB followers want to know what they deem a ruse so they send his former Muscovite lover Anna to seduce him in London in order to extract his high level Russian contact. Over the years the two spies make love and elude war as they dream of a life together without lies but eventually unravel a scheme to launder money that supports the Putin Plan. The espionage scenes are incredibly terrific as the focus on international fiancés by the FSB will stun the audience as Alex Dryden enables the reader to look into Putin's eyes and see a ruthless soul. The romantic subplot pales in comparison to the big picture schemes although watching two people in love lie to each other with the knowledge the other knows makes for an intriguing courtship. Although the writing at times feels stilted, readers will enjoy the frightening Red to Black as the audience obtains a deep look at a merciless Russia during the beginning of the Bush Administration. Harriet Klausner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If one is interested in Russia/U.S. intelligence operations-- this is a must read. Great start in a 4 book series!
Meisha More than 1 year ago
I struggled to finish the book as the plot was "dragging" and the characters, Anna and Finn were boring. The overall story could have been thrillng and ruthless based on the KGB, Putin and Russia.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the main characters: it is just about impossible not to like them. I also liked the development of the historical context of the story. There's a lot of information on the evolution of post-USSR Russia, which I found fascinating.
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slatsdawson More than 1 year ago
My headline captures all review comments.