Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Set in post-glasnost Russia and spilling into Western Europe, this superb debut novel by a pseudonymous British journalist tells the tale of star-crossed lovers who spy for opposing sides. Anna is a KGB colonel, Finn a spy for Britain's MI6. They meet in Moscow, where Anna is ordered to seduce him. Their superiors on both sides eavesdrop on their most intimate conversations; they can never trust that what they say won't come back to hurt them. They fall in love anyway and begin a covert campaign to halt Putin's efforts to use Russia's newfound oil wealth to dominate Europe. (Putin is definitely the bad guy here.) VERDICT This reviewer has never read a novel that captures so well what it must be like to live in a world where one party constantly lies to the other, knowing the other will see it as a lie and lie back in return. An exceptional novel by any standard; readers who enjoy a love story mixed with their espionage (Ø la le Carre's The Little Drummer Girl) will appreciate. [Library marketing; previewed in Wilda Williams's "The Great Escape," LJ 4/15/09 and Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/09.-Ed.]-DK (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
The pseudonymous Dryden, a British journalist, eschews both technological marvels and implausible action scenes in his absorbing debut, a spy thriller that exposes the links between the "old" Russia of the Cold War and the "new" Russia of Vladimir Putin. In 1999, Anna, a colonel in the Russian foreign intelligence service, becomes romantically involved with Finn, an MI6 agent stationed in Moscow whom she deliberately targets for seduction. Meanwhile, Finn has learned of "the Plan," a long-nurtured and fiercely guarded scheme to undermine the West. Finn and Anna each play a decade-long and dangerous double game as they seek to uncover incontrovertible proof that will thwart the Plan and allow them to leave intelligence work together without fear of reprisals. The detailed accounts of the financial maneuverings of the KGB and its successor, the FSB, are mind-boggling. Despite lackluster prose, Dryden's fact-based scenario provides worrisome food for thought. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Anna, a Russian spy, is assigned to seduce Finn, a British spy, in Moscow. Finn allows it to happen, and they soon fall in love. Through a mole in the Kremlin, Finn is also ferreting out the Plan, which he comes to believe represents an existential threat to freedom in all of Europe. But at precisely the time that Finn is able to provide details on the Russian plan, his MI6 masters abruptly disavow the mole's information. Finn is forced to go rogue, and Anna must play a dangerous double agent's game with her FSB (né KGB) superiors. Narrated by Anna, Red to Black is a terrific espionage novel wrapped in an affecting story of fated love. It also oozes a chilling, timely verisimilitude, and thoughtful newspaper readers can be forgiven for wondering if the second KGB President, Vladimir Putin, didn't begin to execute the Plan less than two years ago. Dryden is a journalist who has specialized in security matters since the Berlin wall fell two decades ago. This is his first novel, and it vaults him directly into the top rank of espionage novelists.--Gaughan, Thomas Copyright 2009 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Brit journalist Dryden's debut is half spy thriller, half love storyand half superb. The narrator is Anna, youngest female colonel in the KGB. The beautiful (natch) daughter of a spymaster, she grew up in privilege in a KGB enclave. She's assigned to seduce Finn, a charming scapegrace of a British agent who's been posing, transparently, as a trade secretary in Moscow. Anna and Finneach aware from the beginning of the other's real work, and aware of the other's awarenessembark on an affair, a professional obligation that grows into a passion. Immediately after Putin comes to power, Finn engineers his recall to England and retirement from duty. He knows the Russians will assume this is a feint and send Anna after him to divine the identity of the high-level Kremlin source he's hinted at. Over the next few years, at first with Anna's quiet support and eventually with her active connivance, Finn unravels a convoluted plan hatched decades earlier to launder "black money" through Luxembourg, Russia's client states and elsewhere, and to deploy it in ways that could shift the world's balance of power. The intrigue is wonderfully twisty, and Dryden paints a terrifying portrait of Putin's ruthless Russia, but the romance plot is labored and clumsy, as is much of Anna's characterization. Terrific when it sticks to spycraft and the intricacies of geopolitics. Not so much when it attempts the intricacies of the heart. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.