Book Reviews: Russian Themed Thrillers

When Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park (1981), was published it was an instant hit. The subsequent series had everything. A Russian version of a maverick Detective Inspector who was brilliant and opposed by the forces of institutional corruption. And they were exotic. Writing what appeared to be authoritative novels about the USSR clinched the deal. Since then, other writers have dived in. There are now many successful Russian thriller novels.

Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 (2008) is a brilliant novel which is searing and intense. I can’t recommend it enough. His subsequent novels are less impressive.

G D Absom Black Wolf (2019)1 is the second of two novels (I haven’t read the first one) and it is stunning in its detail. The blurb claims that he has *good* relations with the police in St Petersburg but there’s nothing in his biography which suggests he speaks Russian. So that might be a marketing ploy.

Jason Matthews Red Sparrow (2013) is a terrific book about the recruitment of a young women in to the KGB. The authentic feel to the sections on her *training* I found especially chilling.

These novels are all western takes on Russia and probably rely on our prejudices to make them *work* but as good reads they’re outstanding. These few books are just the tip of the iceberg and a jog trot through Wikipedia and Amazon will give you more examples.


1 This is my full review from 2020 Book Review: G D Abson ~ Black Wolf (2019) | Odeboyz’s Blog (

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