The Silent Oligarch by Chris Morgan Jones
Ben Webster, an investigator/spy for London based Ikertu, is contracted to unearth incriminating information about shadowy Russian bureaucrat Konstantin Malin. Though ambivalent about his assignment at first, the case develops possible ties to the death of a journalistic colleague from earlier in Webster’s life, enlivening his commitment. With a view toward bringing down the suspected criminal kingpin, Webster targets Richard Lock, international businessman, money launderer, and the weakest link in Malin’s network, eventually forcing the middle-aged lawyer, who is completely out of his depth, to go on the run. What follows are numerous dead ends, some disappearances, a few murders, and an insane amount of travel between England, Germany, Russia, and other destinations, as Webster and Lock gravitate toward each other through machination and chance.
Despite sharp prose, The Silent Oligarch has a nebulous quality about it. Webster’s investigative efforts often yield very little aside from the endangerment of the people he questions and his family. The tangible menace and frequent violence present in many novels of intrigue of this scale are downplayed, giving the book an, at times, frustrating but original feel. Often events transpire in a way that leaves both the reader and the characters wondering if their efforts are worthwhile. This shouldn’t be mistaken for a failure, as I have little doubt that Chris Morgan Jones intended every ounce of frustration he piles on Webster, Lock, and us.
The Silent Oligarch features compelling characters that are easy to relate to and an exotic field of play. Fans of international thrillers may be thrown a bit by its pace and lack of murdering, but the novel is an interesting read.