The Oligarch's Wife, By Anna Blundy

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The Independent Culture

Pavel Ivanchenko's life begins in poverty and violence, selling illegal vodka on the streets of Kirgask to support his family. But by the end of the novel, he has reinvented himself as one of post-Glasnost's most influential plutocrats.

Key to Pavel's meteoric climb are two women: one English, one Russian, who meet as restless teenagers in Seventies Moscow and whose fates become entwined.

Anna Blundy, best known for the thriller series featuring the vodka-drinking war correspondent, Faith Zanetti, is in more serious mode as she unlocks the state secrets of presidential suites and Siberian hell-holes.

A refreshingly cliché-free saga of international conspiracy and high-risk love affairs, Blundy's book is excellent at capturing alien cityscapes through an outsider's eyes.