PanThe Times (UK)... an exhaustively researched tome that plots Vladimir Putin’s path from the backstreets of 1970s Soviet Leningrad to the instigation of today’s catastrophic war in Ukraine ... More experienced Russia-watchers will find their eyebrows well exercised at this and other sweeping dismissals of well-founded suspicions about Putin ... A fine wordsmith, Short enjoys stretching his reader’s vocabulary ... as a chronicle of Putin’s public doings, the book is near faultless. It also includes some sharply worded insights, including into his abominable lateness ... Short’s pushback against lazy, convenient myth-making (he’s mad, he’s ill, he’s just a crook) is refreshing. However much we may loathe or fear the Russian leader, it is worth remembering that he is not a cartoon character but a real person ... Short’s search for balance makes him oddly incurious about the darkest side of Putin’s life. Worse, he draws false equivalences: between Putin and his critics, and more fundamentally between Russia and its justifiably nervous neighbours ... Short is particularly tone-deaf when it comes to Russia’s former colonies ... Small but annoying errors detract further from the book’s authority ... The book ends on a patronising, inaccurate and revealingly glib note ... Far from setting unreasonable expectations, outsiders have been lamentably indulgent towards Russia, and Putin. This author, sadly, is one of them.
PositiveThe Times (UK)... a mixture of icy rage and black humour ... Her description of the wrenching de-industrialisation of the Thatcher era, and the poverty and crimped horizons it engendered, is poignant, too ... when writing about her own country, Hill’s fair-mindedness slightly deserts her ... Britain’s ladder of social mobility was rickety, but—as she is at pains to acknowledge—not completely broken ... Her account of those chaotic years [with Trump] contains few revelations ... The book’s most powerful message is that the price of economic alienation is democratic decay. Her pithy recommendations about how to mitigate class disadvantage—mentoring programmes, hiring benchmarks, targeted recruitment and so on—should be required reading for decision-makers.
MixedThe Times (UK)Western executives doing business with China should read this book and look hard in the mirror ... The gruesome story has been told before ... It could be told better too. Cain’s plodding, jerky prose is wearing. Worse, his book leaves big questions unanswered ... [A] grim account of misrule and brutality.
Jan Matti Dollbaum, Morvan Lallouet and Ben Noble
MixedThe Times (UK)... provides pithy insights into how Vladimir Putin’s regime survives despite its greed and incompetence ... The book takes a fair-minded approach to Navalny’s weaknesses...His unpleasant statements about migrants many years ago get a thorough assessment: yes, they reflect prejudice, but Navalny is not the racist demagogue that his critics caricature. His supporters range from the woke left to the nationalist right. When Russia has real political competition, they will disagree heartily about tactics and policies. But you must get there first ... The authors tell the story entirely through secondary sources, chiefly news reports. They have not spoken to Navalny, nor gained first-hand quotes from anyone from his team (some of whom live in exile and are easily accessible). The absence of original reporting gives the book a two-dimensional feel; disappointing given the epic subject matter ... An annoying use of the present tense fails to add immediacy to the second-hand descriptions of places and events. Its slender 191 pages would be shorter still if better edited ... The book’s biggest gap is the external dimension. Navalny’s fury is directed not only at the people who loot Russia, but at their accomplices in the West: the bankers, lawyers, estate agents, wheeler-dealers and accountants who make their living by bestowing respectability on people and money that do not deserve it.
MixedThe Times (UK)Fans of the author’s previous books will appreciate the snappy prose and plethora of well-told anecdotes. The precise details of the first Saudi oil shipment to the US, for example (in 1948), or the Vietnamese territorial claim in the South China Sea (1933) might seem geeky and dull. But as related by Yergin, they are revealing and apposite ... The shale revolution did make a lot of people very rich. But an underappreciated fact is that although the output was real, the profits, so far, have been illusory. Oil and gas come out of the ground, but only as ever more money soaks into it. Indeed, some critics say the whole boom was an illusion based on unfounded optimism and $400 billion of cheap debt. A few nosey paragraphs on that would have been interesting ... [Yergin\'s] authorial canvas would have been panoramic even without the pandemic and he struggles a little to crowbar some mention of its effects into his 430 pages ... These notes of glibness reflect the fundamental problem with the book: telling a single story out of such a vast array of places, trends, dates and people. It is one thing to point out surprising connections, harder to weave them into a coherent picture. Russian foreign policy, for example, is certainly influenced by trends in the international oil and gas markets. So too is the US-China relationship. But it would be wrong to think that these factors are decisive in what Yergin thinks are looming new cold wars ... The book brings the general reader admirably up to date on the many subjects it covers. Those with specialist knowledge may yearn for the author to drill a bit deeper.
RaveThe Times (UK)The plot sounds like a geopolitical thriller. Amid an empire’s collapse, the secret police funnel money out of the country, creating a slush fund to rebuild their old networks. They regain power, become spectacularly rich and turn on their enemies, first at home — and then abroad ... That is fact, not fiction. Catherine Belton, for years a Moscow correspondent for the Financial Times, relates it with clarity, detail, insight and bravery ... Belton has surpassed them all. Her much-awaited book is the best and most important on modern Russia. It benefits from a meticulous compilation of open sources, but also from the accounts of disillusioned Kremlin insiders, former business cronies and some remarkably candid people still high up in the system. The result is hair-raising ... Belton’s passages about Donald Trump’s business ties with Russia during the 1990s are particularly thought-provoking. It is tempting to speculate how much more she could have said about some other prominent people were it not for the constraints of English libel laws. But what she does describe is convincing, particular because of the careful sourcing from numerous witnesses and insiders.
MixedThe Times (UK)Her best reporting is about Turkmenistan, a country largely closed to independent travellers and which she presents in a refreshing three-dimensional way ... Another highlight is her description of the world’s largest walnut grove, in Kyrgyzstan ... This oasis of authenticity is a welcome contrast to the phoney falconry she caustically depicts a few pages earlier, with bored golden eagles inflicting gory deaths on terrified captive animals. But there is a lot of padding. The reader ploughs through potted histories ranging from Genghis Khan to British imperial anxieties in India. Fatland’s pen nib all too often turns to lead ... The biggest problem is Fatland’s own presence on her pages, which is intrusive and unhelpful.
PositiveThe Times (UK)How to be a dictator? Ruthlessness matters a lot more than talent, but luck most of all. That is the upshot of Frank Dikötter’s elegant and readable study of the cult of personality in the 20th century. It deals with eight dictators ... The author’s penmanship and eye for anecdote brings them all to life ... To say that the author paints these portraits \'warts and all\' — in the words of our only homegrown dictator, Oliver Cromwell — would be an understatement. None of the eight seems to have had any redeeming features ... The chief difficulty in this sort of book is balancing the subjects’ similarities and differences. Overemphasising the parallels...between these horrible men quickly becomes tiresome. The disparities are interesting, but raise the question of why exactly these eight, out of the hundred-odd available from the 20th century, are being presented in one book ... Dikötter’s final point is his best. Dictators cut themselves off from the advice and information they need to run their countries. The biggest threat to their rule is not their people, but themselves.
RaveThe Times (UK)To write a world history of intelligence, from the dawn of recorded history to the present day, is a daunting task. To make such a work accurate, comprehensive, digestible and startling, and all in a single volume, is a stellar achievement. But that is what Christopher Andrew has done in The Secret World ... Almost every page includes a sizzling historical titbit ... despite the complexity of the material, the book’s themes are simple ... [a] captivating, insightful and masterly book.
PositiveThe Times (UK)Draws on much existing reporting for the factual side of the book. But [Miller] lets rip when it comes to the analysis, painting a scathing portrait of the commander-in-chief’s personal and political failings, compounded by the dismal inability of other politicians and institutions to get to grips with the abundant evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. ... The book is the clearest account yet of what Russia actually did.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal[Smith's] scrupulous, insightful and thorough study will surely be the definitive account of one of the most controversial personalities of Russian (and European) history ... Mr. Smith’s research busts various Rasputin myths through a careful analysis of contemporary sources and a meticulous attention to the archives ... All of this Mr. Smith presents lucidly, vividly and sympathetically. The main drawbacks of Rasputin are its length and detail. A dramatic personae at the beginning of the book might have aided navigation.