Summary and book reviews of Archangel by Robert Harris

Archangel

By Robert Harris

Archangel
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  • Hardcover: Dec 1998,
    373 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2000,
    415 pages.

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Book Summary

Present-day Russia is the setting for this stunning new novel from Robert Harris, author of the bestsellers Fatherland and Enigma.

Archangel tells the story of four days in the life of Fluke Kelso, a dissipated, middle-aged former Oxford historian, who is in Moscow to attend a conference on the newly opened Soviet archives.

One night, Kelso is visited in his hotel room by an old NKVD officer, a former bodyguard of the secret police chief Lavrenty Beria. The old man claims to have been at Stalin's dacha on the night Stalin had his fatal stroke, and to have helped Beria steal the dictator's private papers, among them a notebook.

Kelso decides to use his last morning in Moscow to check out the old man's story. But what starts as an idle inquiry in the Lenin Library soon turns into a murderous chase across nighttime Moscow and up to northern Russia--to the vast forests near the White Sea port of Archangel, where the final secret of Josef Stalin has been hidden for almost half a century.

Archangel combines the imaginative sweep and dark suspense of Fatherland with the meticulous historical detail of Enigma. The result is Robert Harris's most compelling novel yet.

To choose one's victims, to prepare one's plans minutely, to slake an implacable vengeance, and then to go to bed . . . there is nothing sweeter in the world.
--J. V. Stalin, in conversation with Kamenev and Dzerzhinsky


Olga Komarova of the Russian Archive Service, Rosarkhiv, wielding a collapsible pink umbrella, prodded and shooed her distinguished charges across the Ukraina's lobby toward the revolving door. It was an old door, of heavy wood and glass, too narrow to cope with more than one body at a time, so the scholars formed a line in the dim light, like parachutists over a target zone, and as they passed her, Olga touched each one lightly on the shoulder with her umbrella, counting them off one by one as they were propelled into the freezing Moscow air.

Franklin Adelman of Yale went first, as befitted his age and status, then Moldenhauer of the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz, with his absurd double doctorate-...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
National Review

...an exceptionally well written, skillfully crafted, continuously gripping thriller.

The New York Times

Powerful, clever...delivers the thrills of Graham Greene. Will keep you on edge until its bizarre conclusion.

The New York Times - Christopher Lehmann-Haupt

After finishing Archangel, when you think about what happens, you find it so outlandish as to defy credibility. But Harris makes you believe it as it's happening. What he does particularly well is evoke the atmosphere of contemporary Russia, not only the physical sense of it but also its threat of violent instability, the howling of its caged wolves.

Publishers Weekly

Sex, violence and violent sex all play a part in Harris's entertaining, well-constructed, intelligently lurid tale, which, along with his first two novels, places him squarely in the footsteps not of "Conrad, Green and le Carre," as the publisher would have it, but of Frederick Forsyth. And, like Forsyth, Harris has yet to write a novel without bestseller stamped on it - including this one.

Library Journal

Among the many benefits of Russian glasnost has been the evolution of espionage fiction into a more cerebral form of international thriller. Archangel is a worthy example of how the history of modern Russia can be woven into a mesmerizing adventure yarn.

Booklist - Gilbert Taylor

Building on his accurate historical sense, Harris inveigles readers with intricate plotting and concrete descriptions of Russia's contemporary "look," rewarding them with a thoroughly thrilling tale.

The Economist

Well-researched and skillfully observed, Archangel examines how Russia's uncompleted history--the "past that carries razors and pair of handcuffs"--continues to affect its attempt at free-market democracy. Underlying the story is the whispered issue of what makes Russia Russian.

Reader Reviews
frankenstein21

Good background atmosphere - exciting ending
Reasonable writing - but a lot of the plotting is predictable. Would not recommend.

arshan

this is the best book ever
This book has a lot of black suspense, and is very violent and for a very mature audience, but overall the book rocks!!

paul

Archangel is in my humble opinion Harris' best novel so far and it's hard to see how he will better this.
My interest in Russian history led me to buy the book and I certainly wasn't disappointed. A brilliantly crafted novel
with lots of twists and...   Read More

Philip Zimman

Archangel is a wonderfully crafted novel, filled with suspense, drama and humor. Robert Harris shows us what post-communism Russia is like, as well giving us a look back to the time of Joseph Stalin. His characters are easy to both love and hate, and...   Read More

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