Vodka Neat: a Faith Zanetti thriller by Anna Blundy
Reasons for reading: The title/cover caught my eye on our New Books shelf; Thriller for the Genre Challenge
Description: "Vodka Neat features Faith Zanetti, a war correspondent with plenty of libido, good looks, a great sense of humor, and a zest for life that never quits. She's the new Moscow correspondent for a leading newspaper--chosen for the job because she married a Russian when she was a teenager. But the minute she steps on Russian soil, she is instantly arrested in connection with the murders, fifteen years before, of a couple from a neighboring apartment. She was drunk at the time, but surely not that drunk. In order to solve the mystery, what she needs to do is find the charming Russian black marketer she married as a nineteen-year-old. And when she finds him, her problems really begin."
First line: "Moscow 1989 - There was a do at Dom Literov, the literary house."
My thoughts: I didn't hate this book, and Blundy clearly knows Russia really well, which was interesting, as I don't know much about it. But it just wasn't my thing. For one, I didn't really get the "thriller" part of it. I felt it was more like a mystery. There were some twists and a climactic, violent scene, but I didn't really feel, well, thrilled. The basic plot had some good parts (the actual mystery of who killed the couple next door and a horrifying case of mistaken identity) but there were almost a few too many twists on the way to resolving it. Blundy's obvious knowledge of and love for Russia bogged the book down, I found - there was too much discussion of the cold, the bleakness, the weirdness of the country and the rampant alcoholism there (whether you're Russian or not). Perhaps if I'd read the first book in this series, I'd have felt warmer towards Faith, who is getting over the loss of her mother and a mental breakdown, which I assume happened in volume one. I admired her toughness, but she's a very messed-up human being (although there may be a tiny bit of light at the end of her tunnel by the end).
The verdict: I thought Kirkus Reviews summed Faith and the book up well: "A hard-drinking, foul-mouthed protagonist in Putin's Russia, occupying a landscape nearly as depressing as she is. "