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1

I can at least be sure of her name. It was Maria Kovalenko, Masha to her friends. She was standing on the station platform at Ploshchad Revolyutsii, Revolution Square, when I first caught sight of her. I could see her face for about five seconds before she took out a little makeup mirror and held it in front of her. With her other hand she put on a pair of sunglasses that I remember thinking she might have just bought from a kiosk in an underpass somewhere. She was leaning against a pillar, up at the end of the platform where the civilian statues are--athletes, engineers, bosomy female farmhands, and mothers holding muscular babies. I looked at her for longer than I should have.

There's a moment at Ploshchad Revolyutsii, a visual effect that happens when you're transferring to the green line from that platform with the statues. You find yourself crossing the Metro tracks on a little elevated walkway, and on one side you can see a flotilla of disc-shaped chandeliers, stretching along the platform and away into the darkness that the trains come out of. On the other side you see other people making the same journey, only on a parallel walkway, close but separate. When I looked to the right that day I saw the girl with the sunglasses heading the same way.

I got on the train for the one-stop ride to Pushkinskaya. I stood beneath the yellow panelling and the ancient strip lighting that made me feel, every time I took the Metro, as if I was an extra in some paranoid Donald Sutherland film from the seventies. At Pushkinskaya I went up the escalator with its phallic lamps, held open the heavy glass Metro doors for the person behind me like I always used to, and made my way into the maze of low-slung underground passages beneath Pushkin Square. Then she screamed.

She was about five metres behind me, and as well as screaming she was wrestling against a thin man with a ponytail who was trying to steal her handbag (an ostentatiously fake Burberry). She was screaming for help, and the friend who had appeared alongside her--Katya, it turned out--was just screaming. To begin with, I only watched, but the man drew back his fist like he was about to punch her, and I heard someone shouting from behind me as if they were going to do something about it. I stepped forward and pulled the thin man back by his collar.

He gave up on the bag and swung his elbows at me, but they didn't reach. I let go and he lost his balance and fell. It was all over quickly and I didn't get a good enough look at him. He was young, maybe four inches shorter than me, and seemed embarrassed. He stabbed out a foot, catching me painlessly on the shin, and scrambled up to his feet and ran away down the underpass and up the stairs at the far end that led to Tverskaya--the Oxford Street of Moscow, only with lawless parking, which slopes down from Pushkin Square to Red Square. There were two policemen near the bottom of the steps, but they were too busy smoking and looking for immigrants to harass to pay the mugger any attention.

"Spasibo," said Masha. (Thank you.) She took off the sunglasses.

She was wearing tight, tight jeans tucked into knee-high brown leather boots, and a white blouse with one more button undone than there needed to be. Over the blouse she had one of those funny Brezhnev-era autumn coats that Russian women without much money often wear. If you look at them closely they seem to be made out of carpet or beach towel with a cat-fur collar, but from a distance they make the girl in the coat look like the honey trap in a Cold War thriller. She had a straight bony nose, pale skin, and long tawny hair. With a bit more luck she might have been sitting beneath the gold-leaf ceiling in some hyperpriced restaurant called the Ducal Palace or the Hunting Lodge, eating black caviar and smiling indulgently at a nickel magnate or well-connected oil trader. Perhaps that's where she is now, though somehow I doubt it.

"Oi, spasibo," said her friend, clasping the fingers of my right hand. Her hand was warm and light. I reckoned the sunglasses girl was in her early twenties, twenty-three maybe, but the friend seemed younger, nineteen or possibly even less. She was wearing white boots, a pink fake-leather miniskirt and a matching jacket. She had a little upturned nose and straight blond hair, and one of those frankly inviting Russian-girl grins, the ones that come with full-on eye contact. It was a smile like the smile of the baby Jesus we once saw--do you remember?--in that church in the village down the coast from Rimini: the old, wise smile on the young face, a smile that said I know who you are, I know what you want, I was born knowing this.

"Nichevo," I said. (It was nothing.) And again in Russian I added, "Is everything okay?"

"Vso normalno," said the sunglasses girl. (Everything is normal.)

"Kharasho," I said. (Good.)

We smiled at each other. My glasses had steamed up in the cloying year-round warmth of the Metro. One of the CD kiosks in the passageway was playing folk music, I remember, the lyrics choked out by one of those drunken Russian chanteurs who sound like they must have started smoking in the womb.

In a parallel universe, in another life, that's the end of the story. We say good-bye, I go home that afternoon and back to my lawyering the next day. Maybe in that life I'm still there, still in Moscow, maybe I found another job and stayed, never came home, and never met you. The girls go on to whoever and whatever it would have been if it hadn't been me. But I was flushed with that feeling you get when a risky thing goes well and the high of having done something good. A noble deed in a ruthless place. I was a small-time hero, they'd let me be one, and I was grateful.

The younger one carried on smiling, but the older one was just looking. She was taller than her friend, five nine or ten, and in her heels her green eyes were level with mine. They are lovely eyes. Someone had to say something, and she said, in English, "Where are you from?"

I said, "I'm from London." I'm not from London originally, as you know, but it's close enough. In Russian I asked, "And where are you from?"

"Now we live here in Moscow," she said. I was used to this language game by then. The Russian girls always said they wanted to practise their English. But sometimes they also wanted to make you feel that you were in charge, in their country but safe in your own language.

There was another smiling pause.

"Tak, spasibo," said the friend. (So, thank you.)

None of us moved. Then Masha said, "To where are you going?"

"Home," I said. "Where are you going?"

"We are only walking."

"Poguliaem," I said. (Let's walk.)

And we did.



It was the middle of September. It's the time of year Russians call grandma's summer--a bittersweet lick of velvety warmth that used to arrive after the peasant women had brought in their harvests, and now in Moscow means last-gasp outdoor drinking in the squares and around the Bulvar (the lovely old road around the Kremlin that has stretches of park between the lanes, with lawns, benches, and statues of famous writers and forgotten revolutionaries). It's the nicest time to visit, though I'm not certain we ever will. The stalls outside the Metro stations were laying out their fake-fur Chinese gloves for the coming winter, but there were still long lines of tourists waiting to file through Lenin's freak-show tomb in Red Square. In the hot afternoons half the women in the city were still wearing almost nothing.

We came up the smooth narrow steps from the underground passages beneath the square, arriving outside the Armenian supermarket. We crossed the gridlocked lanes of traffic to the broad pavement in the middle of the Bulvar. There was only one cloud in the sky, plus a fluffy plume of smoke flying up from a factory or inner-city power plant, just visible against the early evening blue. It was beautiful. The air smelled of cheap petrol, grilled meat, and lust.

The older one asked, in English, "What is your job in Moscow, if it is not secret?"

"I am a lawyer," I said in Russian.

They spoke to each other very quickly, too fast and low for me to understand. The younger one said, "For how much years you have been in Moscow?"

"Four years," I said. "Nearly four years."

"Are you liking it?" said the sunglasses girl. "Are you liking our Moscow?"

I said that I liked it very much, which is what I thought she'd want to hear. Most of them had a sort of automatic national pride, I'd discovered, even if all they wanted for themselves was to get the hell out of there and head for Los Angeles or the Côte d'Azur.

"And what do you do?" I asked her in Russian.

"I am working in shop. For mobile phones."

"Where is your shop?"

"Across river," she said. "Close to Tretyakov Gallery." After a few silent paces she added, "You speak beautiful Russian."

She exaggerated. I spoke better Russian than most of the carpetbagging bankers and mountebank consultants in the city--the pseudo-posh Englishmen, strong-toothed Americans, and misleading Scandinavians the black-gold rush had brought to Moscow, who mostly managed to shuttle between their offices, gated apartments, expense-account brothels, upscale restaurants, and the airport on twenty-odd words. I was on my way to being fluent, but my accent still gave me away halfway through my first syllable. Masha and Katya must have clocked me as a foreigner even before I opened my mouth. I suppose I was easy to spot. It was a Sunday, and I was on my way home from some awkward expat get-together in a lonely accountant's flat. I was wearing newish jeans and suede boots, I remember, and a dark V-neck sweater with a Marks & Spencer's shirt underneath. People didn't dress like that in Moscow. Anybody with money went in for film-star shirts and Italian shoes, and everybody without money, which was most people, wore contraband army surplus or cheap Belarussian boots and bleak trousers.

Masha, on the other hand, was authentically beautiful in English, even if her grammar was shaky. Some Russian women shoot up into a sort of overelocutioned squeak when they speak English, but she had a voice that dropped down, almost to a growl, hungrily rolling her Rs. Her voice sounded like it had been through an all-night party. Or a war.

We were walking towards the beer tents that go up for the summer on the first warm day in May, when the whole city takes to the streets and anything can happen, and are folded up again in October when grandma's summer is over.

"Tell me, please," said the younger one. "My friend said me that in England you have two . . ." She broke off to confer with her companion in Russian. I heard "hot," "cold," "water."

"What is it called," the older one said, "where water comes? In bathroom?"

"Taps."

"Yes, taps," the younger one went on. "My friend said me that in England there is two taps. So hot water sometimes is burning her hand."

"Da," I said. "Eta pravda." (Yes, it's true.) We were on a path in the middle of the Bulvar, near some seesaws and wobbly slides. A fat babushka was selling apples.

"And is it true," she said, "that in London is always big fog?"

"Nyet," I said. "A hundred years ago, yes, but not anymore."

She looked down at the ground. Masha, the sunglasses girl, smiled. When I think back on what I liked about her that first afternoon, apart from the long firm gazelle body, and the voice, and her eyes, it was the irony. She had an air that suggested she already knew how it would end, and almost wanted me to know that too. Maybe this is just how it seems to me now, but in a way I think she was already apologising. I think that, for her, people and their actions were somehow separate--as if you could just bury whatever you did and forget about it, as if your past belonged to someone else.

We reached the junction with my street. I had that drunk feeling that, before you, I always used to get in the company of premier-league women--half nervous, half rash, like I was acting, like I was living in someone else's life and had to make the most of it while I could.

I gestured and said "I live over here." Then I heard myself say, "Would you like to come up for some tea?"

You'll think it sounds ridiculous, I know--me trying it on like that. But only a couple of years before, when foreigners were still considered exotic in Moscow and a lawyer was someone with a salary worth saying yes to, it might have worked. It had worked.

She said no.

"But if it is interesting for you to call us," she said, "you may." She looked at her friend, who took a pen from the pocket above her left breast and wrote a phone number on the back of a trolleybus ticket. She held it out to me, and I took it.

"My name is Masha," she said. "This is Katya. She is my sister."

"I'm Nick," I said. Katya leaned against me in her pink skirt and kissed me on the cheek. She smiled the other smile that they have, the Asiatic smile that means nothing. They walked away down the Bulvar, and I watched them for longer than I should have.



The Bulvar was full of boozers and sleepers and kissers. Gangs of teenagers clustered around squatting guitarists. It was still warm enough for all the windows of the restaurant on the corner of my street to be thrown open, ventilating the minigarch and midrange hooker crowd that used to congregate there in the summer. I had to walk in the road to avoid the long, unimaginative sequence of black Mercedeses and Hummers that had overrun the pavements around it. I turned into my street and walked along the side of the mustard-coloured church on the way to my flat.

I guess it might actually have been another day--maybe the image just seems to belong with the meeting on the Metro, so I remember them together--but in my mind it was the same evening that I first noticed the old Zhiguli. It was on my side of the street, sandwiched between two BMWs like a ghost of Russia past or the answer to a simple odd-one-out puzzle. It was shaped like a child's drawing of a car: a box on wheels, with another box on top in which the child might add a stick-man driver and his steering wheel, and silly round headlights on which, if he was feeling exuberant, the child would circle pupils to make them look like eyes. It was the sort of car that most of the men in Moscow had once spent half their lives waiting to buy, or so they were always telling you, saving and coveting and putting their names on waiting lists to get one, only to find--after the wall came down, they got America on TV and their better-connected compatriots got late-model imports--that even their dreams had been shabby. It was hard to be sure, but this one had probably once been a sort of rusty orange colour. It had mud and oil up its flanks, like a tank might after a battle--a dark crust that, if you were frank with yourself, you knew was how your insides looked after a few years in Moscow, and maybe your soul too.


From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse


SHORTLISTED for the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

"Compelling. . . . Makes you see and feel the glitz, squalor, and violence of Moscow."—The Boston Globe

"[An] assured fiction debut.... [Miller] memorably captures Moscow's atmosphere during the glitzy, anything-goes era that succeeded Soviet Communism." --The Seattle Times

"Elegant and compact ... A superlative portrait of a country in which everything has its price." —The Financial Times

"[A]n electrifying tour . . . assaults all your senses with its power and poetry, and leaves you stunned and addicted." —The Independent

"Like Graham Greene on steroids. . . . Tightly written . . . Miller’s complex, gripping debut novel is undoubtedly the real thing." —The Daily Mail

"A deeply atmospheric, slow-burning examination of the effects of modern Russia on the soul of foreign visitors ... beautifully drawn and mirrored in several ingenious subplots...Miller is absolutely wonderful at evoking the seediness and cynicism of Moscow." —The Independent on Sunday

"A mesmerizing tale . . . Miller's novel is both a nuanced character study and a fascinating look at the complexities of Russian society."--Booklist, starred review

"Strips away the layers of life in the Russian capital with subtle, pitiless grace....Paced almost ideally, with an atmosphere that scintillates with beguiling menace."--Literary Review

"Engrossing ... Miller brilliantly showcases the city as his novel’s strutting, charismatic star...rendered with intoxicating vitality. It is a bravura setting for a study in morality...disturbing and dazzling." --Sunday Telegraph

"An intriguing debut, suffused with an atmosphere of dread." —The Millions

"A.D. Miller's sophisticated and many-layered debut novel skewers the relationship between victim and abuser, self-delusion and corruption, love and moral free-fall." —The Spectator

"Tight, compelling....A totally gripping first novel." —The Times

"[A] dark first novel about cupidity, corruption and self-delusion...Taut, exciting, atmospheric - what a debut." —The Guardian"
Genuinely surprising, moving, and ultimately devastating, Snowdrops is a must-read." —Edmonton Journal

"Superbly atmospheric....elegantly written, and spot on in detail" —London Observer

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .


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93 internautes sur 103 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Love And Other Corruptions: A Cold And Remote Tale Of Russian Intrigue 7 janvier 2011
Par K. Harris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
On the surface, A.D. Miller's fascinating debut novel Snowdrops has all the ingredients of a devastating tale of morality gone awry. Set brilliantly in the heart of Moscow and its environs, the wintry setting provides a background to a world that exists unlike any other. And Miller's strength is that he has an insider's knowledge of this strange, but distasteful, land where bureaucratic corruption, decadence, and petty fraud coexist with beauty, idealism, and cultural promise. Okay, so maybe it's not a world "unlike any other" under those terms--but there's just something so inherently intriguing about the openness of Moscow's decadence that makes it an undeniably appealing "character" in Miller's story. And, in fact, Moscow is the most delineated and complex "character" that Miller has described. The human protagonists, however, are all rather chilly. The book unfolds as a confessional with British lawyer Nick Platt recounting, via writing, his past indiscretions to his unseen new fiance.

Set in the early 2000's, Snowdrops introduces Platt--middle-aged and somewhat isolated in a hedonistic new city. He spends his days officiating vaguely defined business enterprises with fairly unsavory characters. He's just putting in his time, not asking questions, and enjoying (however reluctantly he paints it) the sins that the city's nightlife has to offer. His days start to brighten, however, as he rescues two young ladies from a mugging. They begin a friendship that becomes more intense. Soon Platt finds himself in a full-on romance with one of the girls. And his devotion is seemingly blind to the realities of the relationship. When they solicit his legal expertise in a real estate transaction involving their aunt, Platt acquiesces compliantly. But you know, from the first pages of Snowdrops, that this tale is headed to dark territory--the only mystery is how willingly Platt will become a part of that darkness.

Despite being referenced as somewhat of a psychological thriller (The Talented Mr. Ripley and Gorky Park are thrown in as comparison points by the publisher), Snowdrops is indisputably a character study. And, herein, (for me) lies the problem. As everything in Platt's confession is told through a rather gauzy reinterpretation, the supporting and peripheral characters can only be marginally defined through his eyes. And his utter complacency in his own life leads to a true lack of character development for everyone else in the novel. But that's okay and, in fact, I'm positive that was Miller's intent. And I love the idea, in theory. But that leaves Platt as the emotional center of Snowdrops and, unfortunately, that's where and why the book seemed so chilly and detached in the long run. Platt's confession lacks drama and conviction. He states the facts of what happens without seeming to be invested in anything.

Snowdrops, without a doubt in my mind, could have been a powerful and devastating tale of moral ambiguity. Platt's delusion while the events were transpiring might have been offset in his telling, but that's not what Miller wants to convey. Platt was seduced and intoxicated by his experience in Moscow and it was worth ANY price. That's clear--and that tone, which is fully intentional, kept me from ever really connecting with Platt. At the end, for me, Platt remains a curiously detached cipher (like the aforementioned Ripley, but Ripley's exploits were cunningly treacherous and he was an active participant in his own story). Snowdrops then seems like a novel with no real center--a passive protagonist who is still dishonest with himself. And, ultimately, that's why Moscow stands as the most intriguing aspect and most fully developed character that Miller's world presents. KGHarris, 1/11.
16 internautes sur 17 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Moscow Noir 4 décembre 2011
Par James L. Thane - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
A British lawyer, Nicholas Platt, is working in Moscow in the hectic, free-for-all, Wild East days of the new Russia. By day he helps negotiate huge bank loans to facilitate Russia's economic development. These deals involve a number of shady characters and questionable assumptions, but Nick is caught up in the free-wheeling, anything goes climate, and whatever moral scruples he might have brought with him from the UK are quickly eroding. The same is true of his personal life as Nick gets caught up in exotic and often erotic lifestyle that flows from the rivers of cash that are flooding through the city.

One afternoon, Nick saves two attractive sisters from a purse snatcher and he is soon involved romantically with Masha, the older of the two. The women are very mysterious; even Masha reveals little of herself to Nick. But he is too caught up in the intimacy which he believes to be love. Then Masha and her sister, Katya, ask Nick to help their elderly aunt in the sale of her apartment and the purchase of a new one. It quickly becomes apparent to Nick that this deal may not be completely legitimate, but by now he is completely bedazzled by Masha, and his moral compass has long since lost the ability to find True North. He knows he is almost certainly heading for a fall, but like any true noir character, he's long past caring.

This is an excellent debut novel that paints a gripping portrait of the new Russia and the seduction of man who is powerless to resist its allure. It should appeal to those who like their novels dark and their characters flawed and in the grip of an attraction beyond their power to control.
53 internautes sur 65 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Psycho thriller set in modern Russia 25 décembre 2010
Par lisatheratgirl - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
This is a fast read, mainly because you won't want to put it down. The story is told by Nicholas Platt, a lawyer from England, presumably talking to his fiancee. He, like the author, worked in Moscow for a number of years, and so you get a rich description of the city, the restaurants, hotels, casinos, nightclubs, old building facades, subways and parks. The author was able to make me see the city as a whole, not just the picture of the Kremlin you get on posters. He also got across what it was like to live there for the generation that survived WWII and Stalin, and the younger people, under thirty, born after the fall of Communism. There is nothing that is not for sale and everyone has their hands out from beggars to government officials to taxi drivers to judges. In such an atmosphere of crime and corruption, I wondered that Nick would be so gullible as to take everyone at face value. I think anyone who is living and working in a foreign country should be doubly on their guard, because they are outsiders. People may think they know their way around, but they may be more at risk than a tourist or student who leaves in a short time (exception: Natalee Holloway). You can't be too trusting. What starts out as a bland story, but has enough foreshadowing to keep you reading, of course ends in total disaster. It's tightly written with interesting characters (Nick sure found them interesting, until he learned what they really were). For a first novel, I thought it was excellent.
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Dark and depressing but well-written 1 octobre 2011
Par Terry Weyna - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
A.D. Miller's first novel, Snowdrops, has been shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, one of the British Commonwealth's most prestigious writing awards. It's a fine novel, telling a story that hasn't been told elsewhere: what Moscow looked like, felt like, how it did business and how it was criminal in the days just after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The first person narrator, Nick Platt, is a British lawyer who has lived in Moscow for four years at the time the story starts. The book is his explanation to his fiancée about his time in Russia:

"You're always saying that I never talk about my time in Moscow or about why I left. You're right, I've always made excuses, and soon you'll understand why. But you've gone on asking me, and for some reason lately I keep thinking about it - I can't stop myself. Perhaps it's because we're only three months away from "the big day," and that somehow seems a sort of reckoning. I feel like I need to tell someone about Russia, even if it hurts. Also that probably you should know, since we're going to make these promises to each other, and maybe even keep them. I think you have a right to know all of it. I thought it would be easier if I wrote it down. You won't have to make an effort to put a brave face on things, and I won't have to watch you."

Combined with the appearance of a corpse as the book opens - a "snowdrop," a body hidden by the snow that becomes obvious only in the spring thaw - this is perfect foreshadowing for what follows. The reader cannot read a single page without a sense of foreboding, wondering what happened and when, who the corpse is, what Nick did (is he a murderer?), until one is in the middle of a brutally cold Moscow winter with Nick, almost helplessly acting as an accomplice to a crime or two. Nick is not a nice man, it seems, but neither is he evil; he is simply weak.

The source of his weakness is Maria Kovalenko - Masha, as she is called by her friends. In a chance meeting in the subway, Nick rescues Masha and her sister, Katya, from a purse snatcher. Nick is immediately attracted to Masha, even though their meeting is brief. He begins wondering whether she is "the one" from his first sight of her. Why? That he can't seem to explain, though he admires her irony, he says: "She had an air that suggested she already knew how it would end, and almost wanted me to know that too." The fact that she is beautiful certainly helps.

Masha and Katya introduce Nick to their aunt, Tatiana Vladimirovna, an old widow who is a relic of the Soviet system down to her bowl-cut hair - and especially to her lovely apartment, given to her for services to the Fatherland. Tatiana is soon to retire, and is considering moving to a smaller apartment in the country. Masha and Katya ask Nick to help Tatiana with the papers necessary to the apartment swap; and that's where things start to get ugly.

There is a subplot involving a Cossack who seeks financing from Nick's banking and investment clients. Just as we can tell from the beginning that Nick's romance with Masha is doomed, we can see from the outset that the Cossack is basically a crime lord. Does Nick see this from the beginning, or is this so obvious only in retrospect? Does Nick really care? He refers to those days in Russia as a "gold rush," a time when Russia was wide open to both capitalism and crime and the two were indistinguishable. Everything is about money. Indeed, an acquaintance of Nick's, a reporter who fell in love with Russia and has never left, says to him, "In Russia, there are no business stories. And there are no politics stories. There are no love stories. There are only crime stories."

The frigid Moscow winter, as Miller describes it, is an analogy to the frigid principal characters in Snowdrops. This is a dark and depressing novel, a snapshot of a time and place so foreign that it is almost past understanding. The hapless Nick is in love not only with Masha, but with the energy of this new, lawless Russia. Nick can only partake of this energy passively, sadly; he has lost who he is with the melting snow. Nick is himself a "snowdrop."

One doesn't exactly enjoy Snowdrops; it is too dark for that. It combines the Russian bleakness of Anton Chekhov with the English bleakness of Thomas Hardy. But one must admire Miller's writing. The sights and especially the smells; the bite of the cold and the heat of the sauna; the food and the sex are all described sparingly, yet vividly. The plotting is strong, with the story opening up to meet the foreshadowing with precision. It is more assured than one expects a writer's first novel to be.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
BookHounds 9 avril 2011
Par Mary Bookhounds - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
I was thoroughly fascinated by this book. I still can't figure out why I liked it so much since the pace of the story was slow for me, but the writing is so perfectly beautiful that it will mesmerize you. The story it written as a letter from an English lawyer named Nicholas to his fiance revealing an indiscretion that even he can't truly explain except to say that he was used by a woman that had bewitched him. Masha sails into Nicholas' life and convinces him to help complete the sale of some property for an older woman. The tale twists and turns between Russian mafia, unethical business men and the women who will steal more than just your credit card after a sexual romp.

Nick seems to be so intelligent and so fact conscious that it at first seems improbable that he could be used in a scam where Masha and Katya (possibly cousins) respond to his loneliness with taking him under their wing in order to help them illegally sell property that is owned by their "aunt". He explains to his girlfriend that he should have seen the scam coming, but couldn't believe that someone might actually take advantage of him. I found it very interesting to read the descriptions of corruption in Russia and how business is actually conducted. I don't know who to compare this story to since I don't think I have ever read anything like it before.
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