The swirling snowstorms and ongoing economic confusion and casualties of early February provided this reviewer with the perfect atmosphere in which to read this bitterly gruesome novel set in the revolutionary, corpse-strewn Russia of 1918.
The story begins in St Petersburg a few days before Lenin’s coup. The fate of the Tsar and his family is in the balance. Though still puffing away at Ortega Grande cigars and knocking back ninety-year-old cognac from silver flasks in their chauffeured Rolls-Royces, capitalists, aristocrats in long fur-edged coats and other privileged types are on the run. Shit, vomit, fog, mud and Bolshevism fill the streets.
Enter, or rather re-enter, Charlie Doig, hero of James Fleming’s last wintry offering, White Blood. Half-Scottish, half-Russian, Doig immediately reminds us that he started life as a naturalist and hit world renown at twenty-three by capturing an absurdly rare beetle in a post office in western Burma. Now