Angels in the Snow is Derek Lambert’s first book. This book also marked the start of his career as one of the best mystery and spy novelist.
‘With a ready eye for drama, which gave his journalism and fiction its air of authenticity, Lambert smuggled his incomplete manuscript out of Russia in a wheelchair when he was invalided home with suspected rheumatic fever. He finished it on his battered Olivetti typewriter in a flat over a grocer’s shop in Ballycotton, Co Cork, and earned himself the then impressive sum of £10,000, which set him firmly on his career as a novelist.’
– From Derek Lambert’s obituary in The Telegraph.
Angels in the Snow is more of a literary fiction than a mystery or a spy thriller. I have mentioned in my previous posts too that there is something special about Lambert’s writing that leaves the reader in awe. The writing is clear and concise. After having read seven of his books, there is something that I have noticed – though the writing is crisp, the language is not for those who love to read simple English. Over the years, the way authors write – their usage of words has changed a lot. If you compare the books written in the 1970’s with those written now, you will see that there is a drastic change in the writing. There is a different kind of sophistication and class about the books written in the 70’s.
The story is about the lives of diplomats in the Soviet Union. Harry Waterman, a defector who now lives with his Russian wife Marsha and her parents. Richard Mortimer, a diplomat at the British Embassy who is torn between Diana – his embassy-selected girlfriend and Nina – his Russian teacher. From people wearing the same printed dresses – the nearby factory made a batch of same printed material for all, to buying something simple like Scotch – which the locals could not afford, the book also gives an insight into the general atmosphere that prevailed during the USSR.
The lives of the defectors were not easy either. Harry Waterman defected to Russia because he was about to be convicted for a murder in the UK. But what poor Harry did not know was that he had to spend years at the camp in Siberia before being declared innocent. Spending the rest of his life in Russia was not easy for him – he longed to go to the country he was born in – Britain.
Photographs of diplomats in compromising position – from homosexuals to otherwise, were used to blackmail them. More than blackmail, it was a sense of disgraceful return to their home country for the diplomats. Bugging the homes of diplomats and secretly checking their homes when they were away was also common. The KGB – the secret police were busy keeping their eyes on the foreigners, especially the Twilight Brigade – the name given to those who defected to Russia.
The book also gives a peek into the harsh Russian Winters, the not-so-exciting Christmas air and Russian toys for children. The parties held by diplomats were an only means of socializing, and then there was the trip to a ski resort or the beach – a separate beach just for the diplomats! And the mention of various delicacies is not to be missed – Borscht ( soup made with beetroot as its main ingredient), Nazran water, fruit water, vodka (fire water) and Chicken Kiev.
This book might not be the best when compared to Lambert’s Saint Peter’s Plot or The Red Dove, but overall, it is a good read.
My Rating: 4/5
Title: Angels in the Snow
Author: Derek Lambert
Published on: 2nd November 2017 (republished)
Genre: General Fiction
Featured Image Credits: NetGalley
I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.