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3.59  ·  Rating details ·  525 ratings  ·  49 reviews
Beautiful American banker Alice Liddell arrives in Moscow as it reels under a war between mafia gangs for control of the violently changing city. Hired to oversee the privatization of Russia's vodka distillery, Alice finds her ideals compromised by its director, a dangerously seductive gangland member. When an enemy vows revenge on him, and a series of bizarre serial murde ...more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published February 7th 2006 by Onyx (first published March 1st 2004)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  525 ratings  ·  49 reviews

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Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was ok
Blech. Outside of the fact that it introduced me to the concept of the "vor v zakone", it was just kinda... well, 'blech' says it all. Not recommended. I bought it cuz' I couldn't resist the title, for a dollar. It was worth a dollar, but it wasn't worth the time it cost me. Slogging through it was so unenjoyable that it took like nine times as long to read as it would have otherwise, because I kept finding anything to do other than pick it back up.

Basically, chick goes to Russia to oversee a f
Mar 10, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Unbelievably, the first book I've read for pleasure in months: uni seems to leave no time for casual reading. Set in contemporary Russia, the book is a stunning panorama of cities and characters. Starling is excellent at creating natural, three-dimensional characters and handles a large cast with skill. At points, especially early on, his descriptions seem somewhat too didactic; however, he soon eases into his style. The plot is convoluted but never clichéed, and holds the attention throughout. ...more
Graham Tapper
Feb 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
What initially appeared to be a political thriller turned out to be something else. The story is set at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, a time of uncertainty and chaos, with Russia seemingly in the grips of organised crime. Certain political forces want to propel Russia into the 21st century and so the privatisation of Russian businesses is on the agenda, but where to start?

Into this turmoil walks Alice Liddell, privatisation wizard of the IMF, and her husband, Lewis. Russia's fund
Nov 01, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime, fiction
Well it's a bit hard to review this one. I read it while in a mental ward during a nervous breakdown. Reading the book and then looking at the people around me I was very hard put to figure out who was the most nuts. maybe it was just me..

The female lead goes on a long trip down fuelled by the eponymous alcohol. Not sure where the plot was going or where it actually ended up but I was on medication at the time so perhaps I can be excused. I seem to remember enjoying reading it, that's why I gave
May 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
Was already struggling with it - poor writing style as much as anything, terribly unsubtle - when I reached this par which caused me to stop entirely: "Alice reached for Lewis' cheek and ran her hand down it, past the silvering hairs at his temples." Yep, that makes perfect sense. ...more
May 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Lev, both businessman and charismatic, ruthless head of a mafia gang. Alice a young American woman sent to help Russia towards the free market. A compelling and imaginative tale of murder and mafia.
Sherman Berry
I read Messiah by Boris Starling a few years ago and I still rate it as one of the best thrillers I have read. I perhaps unfairly set my expectations pretty high for Vodka.

Sadly I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped to. There were passages that were very enjoyable and genuinely tense but these were few and far between.

I appreciate that a certain amount of background and scene setting is needed. In this case readers need to get a feel of Moscow and Russia in the period immediately following the
Henri Moreaux
Part crime novel, part political thriller, part business novel, Vodka is a bit of a mixed bag. In parts, it's good, in other parts the writing leaves a little to be desired, such as when someone ran their hand down another characters cheek, to their temple - what's going on with that anatomy?

That aside, it has a steady momentum that (slowly) builds to a rather climactic ending, there's some intrigue, a serial killing mystery, a fair heaping of gang conflict and a serving of Russian politics runn
Feb 22, 2022 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the history and cultural information provided by the book. It gives a real sense of the importance of vodka to the Russian people. It also is interesting in describing the relationships between the different peoples that make up Russia. The detective and gangsters seemed real. However, the main female character and her sidekicks were flat. It was as if the author was writing about a woman that he wanted to sleep with. I think he was trying to say that she became seduced by Russia but d ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ha, it's always interesting to read about Russia pre 1991. This book... Has some funny moments, it's always fun to see in which ways Russia was upside down. ...more
That one who reads
An interesting book! Can be very slow and dry at times but then it picks up and loved the characters. Some plots were too basic and easy to see through where or what was going to happen.
Judy Green
Sep 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Super boring!
Stopped at page 15.
Thapan Dubayehudi
May 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Gripping tale, can really feel the Russia of the time
Myra Mcculloch
Apr 26, 2022 rated it really liked it
Chaos reigns in Moscow where there is a move to privatise Russia's biggest vodka distillery. Mafia gang wars, murder, kidnapping, political assassinations and a love story. This book has it all. ...more
Jun 17, 2022 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 20, 2022 rated it did not like it
as tasteless as the name implies
Jul 13, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery, action
my love and intrigue of russia landed this book in my lap, it has actually been on my shelves for a while(not really sure were i picked it up at)
i finally picked this up and actually almost put it right back down...language was almost a big issue. but the story line had me and i needed to know how it turned out. i told jeremy this would have made an awesome action movie, how could it not be when you have russian mafia involved. i however would never recommend the book openly due to some question
Jim Bowen
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: foreign-crime
Back in the 1980s, Martin Cruz Smith wrote Gorky Park. The promotional material presented it as a sneak peak at life (and detective fiction) behind the Iron Curtain. As a 13 year old this made an impression on me, even if much of it was bound to be hype now that I look back on it.

This book was presented in much the same way. This time the book looks at the time after Gorbachev when the government starts to sell off state owned industries and attempts to see if it could work by piloting the proce
Oct 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
At 638 pages, this is not a book to read in an afternoon. The book starts slow then builds. All the while showing Russian life. Pretty depressing. All of a sudden you reach a point when you can't stop reading; will Alice leave Lewis? Will the Chechens get Lev? How much vodka is enough for Alice? The story twists and turns through the streets (and sewers) of Moscow. You can't trust anyone except the almighty dollar. Prices rise in Moscow as fast as the suspense does. Great read! ...more
Travis Kendall
Aug 06, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a great book that had the possibility to be even better. Starling description of Moscow, vodka, and all things Russian is very impressive. The problem is that the story goes all over the road. Corporate intrigue, murder, mobsters, government overthrow, its all in this book and makes it a little disjointed. If you like murder mysteries or anything Russian than this may be the book for you.
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really enjoyed the description of characters' relationships in post-ussr russia, particularly the ones developing between russian and american characters throughout the book. I was also very surprised (more like shocked) by the negative interactions between former USSR nation members living in Moscow. I thought the end was a bit too hollywoodesque, but not enough to ruin the book. I may read it again. ...more
Natalie K
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful, wonderful book. Boris Starling may be British, but he definitely has a bit of the Russian soul inside of him. Some aspects of this book are a bit unexpected, as he departs from the actual history quite a bit towards the end, but overall, it is excellent. I ended up liking Lev, the Mafia boss, a lot more than I expected. All the musings about Russian life and how all Russian literature is depressing were very apt (and accurate!). I would highly recommend.
Suzanne Baldinger
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I had never heard of this book before I found it in a bargain books bin and I don't know why. I bought a cheap book with my favorite drink as its title and what I found was a wonderfully written book about post-communist Russia. I fell in love with the characters and can't wait to read more by Starling. ...more
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book has everything but the kitchen sink, which is both good and bad. There's politics, spies, mafia, vodka, communism, capitalism, amputees, orphans, alcoholism, murder, torture, vampires, and true love. Once it got going, I had a hard time putting it down. Was it ridiculous? Yes. Was it entertaining? Yes. ...more
May 30, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A rambling, uninteresting 700-page love letter to substance abuse, infidelity, and shady union practises with a clumsy murder mystery stapled on as an afterthought. You get highly detailed descriptions of the gallons of vodka consumed, and yet the resolution of a series of child murders is delivered in an almost backhand fashion, on a truly ridiculous premise. Not worth the money.
Akansha Gupta
Jan 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Vodka is a sprawling, incomprehensible novel. Starling fulfilled a couple of things, strikingly a to some degree offensive depiction of post-Soviet Moscow in the throes of privatization and a wave of mafia savagery. The extent that the characters go, I discovered them to some degree unwieldy and somewhat inconceivable. ...more
Dec 28, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Very accurate description of how things were in Russia at the end of the 20th century. Great character development throughout the novel and quite precise description of the level of corruption and mafia/government cooperation.
May 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, thriller
Post Communist Russia is a wild-west, a potential imperial power, fraught with contradictions and philosophical tendencies run riot. This thriller set in the gangster capitalism of Post Soviet Russia is a fast read and a cautionary tale.
Dec 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I preferred Messiah and Storm to this. The sub-stories were not as intertwined compared to Messiah. There is more of a (predictable) love story in this book compared with Storm. If one is to choose a Boris Starling book, read Messiah.
Oct 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: around-the-world
A bit slow moving but fascinating nonetheless
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Boris Starling's writing career began at the age of eight, when his English teacher spotted that his short story was (a) unusually good for a child his age (b) copied verbatim from Tintin's 'Prisoners Of The Sun.' (That was also the first time he learnt the word 'verbatim', not to mention the term 'copyright violation'.)

All his work since then has been strictly his own. He has written eight novel

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“This was a sacred homily for Borzov, and Alice respected that. Borzov lowered his glass and stared at her. “What’s vodka, Mrs. Liddell, if not all things to all men? It can be a folk medicine, a hallucinogen revealing the mysteries of the soul, a lubricant more commonly applied to sophisticated machinery than any conventional liquid—and of course it can simply be vodka too. Every aspect of the human condition finds its reflection in vodka, and its exaggeration too. Russians drink from grief and from joy, because we’re tired and to get tired, out of habit and by chance. It warms us in the cold, cools us in the heat, protects us from the damp, consoles us in grief and cheers us when times are good. Without vodka, there’d be no hospitality, no weddings, no baptisms, no burials, no farewells. Without vodka, friendship would no longer be friendship, happiness would no longer be happiness. It’s the elixir sipped sociably, spreading gregariousness and love; it’s also the anesthetic without which life would be unendurable. Vodka’s the only drug that enables the dispossessed to endure the monstrously cruel tricks life’s played on them. It’s the only solace for desperate men and women for whom there’s no other release. So where better to begin the second revolution than at the spiritual home of Russia’s vodka production, the drinker’s Mecca?” 0 likes
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