Philps clearly wants The Red Hotel to do justice to those who served truth and mete out some punishment to those who failed it. The book’s structure somewhat hinders this ambition. It awkwardly jumps between past, present and future, and from one set of interpreters and journalists to another ... The other challenge that Philps faces is historical. A longtime foreign correspondent with experience in the Soviet Union and Russia, Philps has ably reconstructed the different stories and settings of the Metropol. Yet he also seems to aspire to say more about the role of truth and translation in wartime ... Philps’s book does, however, raise questions about how audiences should interpret news about contemporary conflicts ... Philps is also clear-eyed enough to show that truth will not always come out — at least, not easily, and not without cost.
It is as strong a condemnation of Stalin's murder, insanity, paranoia and paralysing control, on a personal level, as readers might expect to find anywhere. There are also large question marks over the probity, integrity and basic honesty of many of the journalists Philps discusses ... One of the great achievements of The Red Hotel is to flood the reader with the personal details of these women's lives ... Readers who know someone contemplating a career in journalism may want to invite that person to read this book. It tells us of a moral vacuum that should shame and depress any who read it.