Snowdrops by AD Miller
This was one of hubby's books - he thought he was buying a thriller then was mystified by this book and suggested I'd like it more than he did. But he did finish the book, and he doesn't finish books he doesn't like, so the combination of him saying he didn't like it but actually finishing it, made me curious.
Well, I really enjoyed it and raced through it. It's a pretty short book (250 pages) and it takes 150 pages before you really get what's going on. Before then, well stuff was happening but it was hard to say what the plot was or what the book was about.
Nicholas is an ex-pat late-thirties corporate lawyer living in Moscow. The book is written as a confession to his soon-to-be wife, who we never meet, after his return to England. In Moscow, he'd met a couple of Russian girls - sisters, they told him. He started an affair with one of them, and got sucked into a scheme they had to 'help' an elderly friend move to a new apartment block on the edge of the city. Meanwhile at work, he's involved in a plan to build an oil terminal in the north of Russia - he handles moving the money around from the banks who are investing in the project.
As I said, pages and pages go by with not a huge amount happening, but the book is so well written and evokes Moscow so well, you keep turning the pages. Gradually you realise that nothing is quite what it seems; everyone and everything in Moscow is corrupt; and Nicholas himself is either an unreliable narrator or terribly naive and pretty stupid.
I found the ending very satisfying. The book leaves you with an urge never to visit Moscow as long as you live, and a deep dislike for Nicholas, but for a writer to be able to keep you reading and unable to put the book down despite your negative feelings for both setting and character is quite an achievement.