3 out of 4 stars
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Set in Moscow, Nikolai Delov, by James Dante, tells the story of a forty-eight-year-old Russian businessman. From an impoverished family, Nikolai, his father, and brother Anatoly started a transportation company “not long after the disbanding of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.” In a couple of decades, they became millionaires.
The story, told in the third person, portrays Nikolai as an all-around good guy. He is the father of Valentin and Sofia, children of his first marriage, and makes it a point to cater to their every wish. Nikolai’s antagonist – Vladimir Konstantinov – is an unscrupulous, sordid man who longs to see Europe ruled by bearded mullahs and America owned by the Chinese. Vladimir is involved with the sexual exploration and trafficking of girls, in direct opposition to Nikolai’s girlfriend Inessa, who rescues and rehabilitates abused young women. This antagonism results in various intrigues around which the plot revolves.
The novel is at once a thriller and a love story – it is a melodrama of sorts. Conflict, in the form of a clear opposition of a good guy and a bad one, is the central feature of Nikolai Delov. The clash of opposing moral values, political ideas, and world views gets brilliantly woven into the plot. Nikolai and Vladimir’s characters were well-developed and textured, but Inessa needed a little more depth, in my opinion.
An aspect I particularly liked was the sharp-witted tone the narrator uses to describe Russian society. For instance, the following subtle, witty remark about industrialists: “The only times they worried about the possible redistribution of wealth were whenever they left their Bentleys unattended on the poorly lit streets at night.” And how, despite his fortune, Nikolai had “never shaken off his proletarian taste in food.” The author gives readers a nuanced view of Russian culture and some of its dilemmas.
On the other hand, I felt that the chemistry between Nikolai and Inessa could have been more charming and less explicit. The erotic passages were a bit cheesy and overdone, in my opinion. I believe the book would be better if they were toned down.
Lastly, I rate Nikolai Delov 3 out of 4 stars. It is a well-edited book; I didn’t find any errors in it. I am taking a star away because I thought the book would be better if the romantic parts were more charmingly depicted. I believe the book will appeal to readers who are fond of drama with a touch of crime and romance. Those who are bothered by strong language might not like it.
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