The Silent Oligarch
By Christopher Morgan Jones
(Penguin Press HC, The, Hardcover, 9781594203190, 336pp.)
Publication Date: January 19, 2012
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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 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.
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.
"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.”
“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