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The Russian Doll

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'I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day . . . Superb!' - Mara Timon, author of City of Spies The Firm meets McMafia in Marina Palmer's thrilling and exciting novel, which opens the door on the Russian high life in London and corruption at the heart of British politics, reaching all the way into the Secret Services. Packed with twists, intrigue, betrayal, romance and 'I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day . . . Superb!' - Mara Timon, author of City of Spies The Firm meets McMafia in Marina Palmer's thrilling and exciting novel, which opens the door on the Russian high life in London and corruption at the heart of British politics, reaching all the way into the Secret Services. Packed with twists, intrigue, betrayal, romance and suspense, The Russian Doll constantly wrong-foots the reader and delivers a perfect narrative, right to the last page. How much did she just say the salary was? When Ruth Miller returns a dropped scarf to Elena Shilkov, she is whisked from a dreary shared flat to a world of unimagined luxury. The super-rich Russian wants a new personal assistant and won't take no for an answer. Ruth gets accommodation, a credit card, and a complete wardrobe makeover. And she's good at the job; distributing gifts, attending galas, dealing with the high-society movers and shakers fighting for Elena's attention. Then the sinister truth begins to reveal itself, that nothing is quite what it seems in Elena's dangerous, deceptive world. Ruth should get away. But it's already too late. 'Best book I've read this year' - Simon Conway, author of The Stranger 'The Russian Doll gripped me with layer upon dangerous layer' - Alison Bruce, author of The Moment Before Impact


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'I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day . . . Superb!' - Mara Timon, author of City of Spies The Firm meets McMafia in Marina Palmer's thrilling and exciting novel, which opens the door on the Russian high life in London and corruption at the heart of British politics, reaching all the way into the Secret Services. Packed with twists, intrigue, betrayal, romance and 'I couldn't put it down and finished it in a day . . . Superb!' - Mara Timon, author of City of Spies The Firm meets McMafia in Marina Palmer's thrilling and exciting novel, which opens the door on the Russian high life in London and corruption at the heart of British politics, reaching all the way into the Secret Services. Packed with twists, intrigue, betrayal, romance and suspense, The Russian Doll constantly wrong-foots the reader and delivers a perfect narrative, right to the last page. How much did she just say the salary was? When Ruth Miller returns a dropped scarf to Elena Shilkov, she is whisked from a dreary shared flat to a world of unimagined luxury. The super-rich Russian wants a new personal assistant and won't take no for an answer. Ruth gets accommodation, a credit card, and a complete wardrobe makeover. And she's good at the job; distributing gifts, attending galas, dealing with the high-society movers and shakers fighting for Elena's attention. Then the sinister truth begins to reveal itself, that nothing is quite what it seems in Elena's dangerous, deceptive world. Ruth should get away. But it's already too late. 'Best book I've read this year' - Simon Conway, author of The Stranger 'The Russian Doll gripped me with layer upon dangerous layer' - Alison Bruce, author of The Moment Before Impact

54 review for The Russian Doll

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    You know the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is”? Well look no further than The Russian Doll, if you want proof of it! Russian oligarchs are business oligarchs of the former Soviet republics who rapidly accumulated wealth during the era of Russian privatization in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. This then is the backdrop for The Russian Doll. When Ruth is caught up in the bombing of a London cafe, she bravely intercepts a grenade th You know the old adage, “If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is”? Well look no further than The Russian Doll, if you want proof of it! Russian oligarchs are business oligarchs of the former Soviet republics who rapidly accumulated wealth during the era of Russian privatization in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. This then is the backdrop for The Russian Doll. When Ruth is caught up in the bombing of a London cafe, she bravely intercepts a grenade that was heading towards two little girls, and effectively saves their lives. Their mother Elena Shilkov just happens to be a Russian Oligarch. Ruth was only there to return a scarf that Elena had dropped, and within a few weeks has been offered a job with the Russian and her family, a job that that made Ruth gulp in disbelief. The fantastic salary, the designer clothes, attending functions that money couldn’t buy. Can it be true? And what exactly will she have to do in return for this life of unbelievable luxury? Well Ruth is about to find out. She can’t believe her luck - until the truth begins to reveal itself. This one drew me in immediately, and thereafter, as it quickly revealed the dark side of the Russian elite, with lots of twists and unbearable tension at times. A riveting read that, (had the ending been stronger), would have been a 5 star rating for me. Terrific, all the same! *Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for an ARC in exchange for an honest unbiased review *

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Marina Palmer drops the reader into the murky world of Russian oligarchs living in London, giving us a glimpse into the machinery of political manipulation and their world of super wealth. 23 year old Ruth Miller is from a deprived and rough background, supported by foster parents in Middlesbrough, a northern girl who finds herself working as a temporary administrative assistant in London. She is lonely, exploring the city, when she finds herself inadvertently injured in a West End cafe terroris Marina Palmer drops the reader into the murky world of Russian oligarchs living in London, giving us a glimpse into the machinery of political manipulation and their world of super wealth. 23 year old Ruth Miller is from a deprived and rough background, supported by foster parents in Middlesbrough, a northern girl who finds herself working as a temporary administrative assistant in London. She is lonely, exploring the city, when she finds herself inadvertently injured in a West End cafe terrorist incident, saving the life of Elena Shilkov and her 2 daughters. Several weeks later Elena makes Ruth an offer she can't refuse, working as her social and charitable PA, living in the Shilkovs well protected luxurious home in South Kensington, paid an extraordinary salary, with a new designer wardrobe and a credit card. To Ruth's surprise, she turns out to be remarkably good at her job, her blend of street smarts and good memory hold her in good stead in the face of her naivety at the eyeopening heart of the world of extreme privilege and power that opens up. She develops a close relationship with Elena, the two of them intuitively recognise in the other the tough background each has experienced, and it is not long before Elena begins to view Ruth as her protege to be tutored in the world of business, whilst Ruth sees at first hand the corruption at the heart of the British government. However, Ruth is unaware of the dangerous realities of working for Russian oligarchs as she answers Elena's emails, dispenses largesse to the needy, organises conferences at exclusive hotels, researching and providing appropriate rewards for the 'Sir Tobys' of the British establishment for political favours. Ruth finds herself in deadly danger, surrounded by disappearances, murders, extortion, blackmail, troll farms and fake news, and the presence of the intelligence services that begins to encroach on her life, leaving her feeling trapped, living in fear and terror. As she tries to find the truth of what is going on, Ruth is a woman with her own secrets, she doesn't know who she can trust, she is on her own, will she be able to survive against all the odds? This is a dark and intense exciting thriller that resonates with our contemporary realities. It makes for utterly riveting and compulsive reading, packed with suspense and tension, and with numerous twists and turns. I think this will appeal to many crime, mystery and thriller readers. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher for an ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    4.5 rounded up. Why is the sight of a blonde woman with her two girls looking in a jewellers window something which attracts Ruth Millers attention? The blonde drops are very expensive scarf, Ruth returns it and three months later she finds herself whisked away from her dreary flat share into a well-paid job as a personal assistant. Who is the blonde you may well ask? Well, she’s a Russian Elena Shilkov, a philanthropist and wife of Yuri Shilkov, accountant and adviser to oligarchs. Ruth has a m 4.5 rounded up. Why is the sight of a blonde woman with her two girls looking in a jewellers window something which attracts Ruth Millers attention? The blonde drops are very expensive scarf, Ruth returns it and three months later she finds herself whisked away from her dreary flat share into a well-paid job as a personal assistant. Who is the blonde you may well ask? Well, she’s a Russian Elena Shilkov, a philanthropist and wife of Yuri Shilkov, accountant and adviser to oligarchs. Ruth has a makeover including a designer wardrobe, a good salary, accommodation under credit card. Too good to be true? Well, this is a thriller and a darn good one at that and so of course it is! You are engaged in the clever, contemporary novel right from the jawdropping start. The characterisation is excellent, Elena is a tour de force but she’s met her match in Ruth who is no pushover, in fact she has all the smarts. Despite this being an intense and exciting thriller there are moments of humour especially in the dialogue between the two women. The fast paced plot is clever and very believable and it’s written so visually it’s like watching a movie! As the title suggests there are multiple layers to this but what little doll lies at the centre of this as you unwrap the layers? Naturally that would be a spoiler! We have enigmatic characters with pasts, the mystery of the Orlov‘s and their empire and the dynamics between the family, we have politics, conspiracies, dilemmas and the security services – every component and more of a gripping novel. It’s got tension, suspense and multiple twists and turns to keep you hooked. The ending is good but could maybe have been a bit more kapow. Overall, I love this one and genuinely couldn’t put it down. With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Hodder and Stoughton for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review

  4. 4 out of 5

    The Cookster

    Rating: 3.0/5 Although this is the first novel that has appeared under the name of Marina Palmer, it is actually a pseudonym for Imogen Robertson, who has written a number of books in the historical fiction genre as well as collaborating with other writers on co-writing projects. Having recently completed a political thriller with former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, she has now penned her first solo foray into the world of contemporary thriller fiction with "The Russian Doll". T Rating: 3.0/5 Although this is the first novel that has appeared under the name of Marina Palmer, it is actually a pseudonym for Imogen Robertson, who has written a number of books in the historical fiction genre as well as collaborating with other writers on co-writing projects. Having recently completed a political thriller with former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Tom Watson, she has now penned her first solo foray into the world of contemporary thriller fiction with "The Russian Doll". There was much that I admired and enjoyed about this book, but by the end I also felt slightly frustrated and disappointed that it hadn't lived up to its potential. The novel opens very strongly and impressively with the author succeeding in creating a real sense of confusion around an incident that takes place - blurring events of the immediate past and the present. This opening is both disconcerting and intriguing. It grabbed my attention and drew me in immediately. The premise, too, was an interesting one and it is easy to understand why comparisons have been drawn between this and the television series, "McMafia". At times "The Russian Doll" also felt more like a screenplay than a novel. The characterisation is generally pleasing. For the most part, I enjoyed the strength and charisma of the two lead female characters, Ruth and Elena. That said, I was much less taken with the rather sickly and unnecessary romance element that kept popping into the narrative, which I felt undermined Ruth's character and the story as a whole. Sadly, in spite of all the aforementioned positive aspects, the quality did become somewhat patchy as the storyline progressed. Considering how impressively the novel had opened, the narrative, style and plot did subsequently become a bit ropey at times. There were sections that seemed inappropriately simplistic or rushed, and the plot developments came across as being excessively convenient or relying on leaps of faith. On the whole, "The Russian Doll" is still an enjoyable and entertaining read, but it could have been so much better if the quality that was evident in the earlier sections had been maintained throughout. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for supplying an ARC in return for an honest review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Martin Paul

    A fine contemporary thriller with some nice twists and turns. First off, although Marina Palmer may be a new name to readers, her alter-ego Imogen Robertson will be well-known to readers of historical fiction books. So, this new venture into contemporary thrillers intrigued me. When office worker Ruth Miller inadvertently saves the lives of a woman and her children during a terrorist attack on a London café, she has no idea what changes are about to take place in her life. Within weeks the woman A fine contemporary thriller with some nice twists and turns. First off, although Marina Palmer may be a new name to readers, her alter-ego Imogen Robertson will be well-known to readers of historical fiction books. So, this new venture into contemporary thrillers intrigued me. When office worker Ruth Miller inadvertently saves the lives of a woman and her children during a terrorist attack on a London café, she has no idea what changes are about to take place in her life. Within weeks the woman has offered her a job as her PA, and she is swept up into the privileged life of Russian oligarchs, society events and cash-for-favours. It's not long before Ruth begins to suspect there are darker things going on in the lives of her boss and her family, and soon she is involved in shady deals and suspect relationships. The story moves along at a fair pace, with twists, mysteries and revelations all served up in a timely fashion. There are some nicely observed scenes involving the rich and famous, the privileged and the not-so-privileged, and the world that is light years away from normal. I enjoyed the book, and the characters are well rounded enough for me to love / hate / despise them as appropriate. And there's a nice sense of claustrophobia that's builds up as Ruth realises just what she's gotten herself into. Definitely recommended for thriller and conspiracy fans everywhere.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Listened to the audio. This is a gripping novel with two original and convincing female leads, Ruth from Middlesbrough and Elena from Russia / Kensington. It’s a clever and very contemporary plot with dark undertones and plenty of unexpected twists and turns. Very entertaining. There were a couple of scenes that didn’t work so well for me (notably Ruth’s encounter with an overly caricatured prime minister) and the ending was a little too nearly wrapped up - but overall this was an interesting, f Listened to the audio. This is a gripping novel with two original and convincing female leads, Ruth from Middlesbrough and Elena from Russia / Kensington. It’s a clever and very contemporary plot with dark undertones and plenty of unexpected twists and turns. Very entertaining. There were a couple of scenes that didn’t work so well for me (notably Ruth’s encounter with an overly caricatured prime minister) and the ending was a little too nearly wrapped up - but overall this was an interesting, fun, fast paced read. Very well narrated on audio too.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kirstie Cooper

    As much as I enjoyed this book, and enjoyed the storyline, I did struggle slightly with the flow of the book. Seemed to take me ages to read it, which I don't really know why - just wasn't a smooth read that gripped me where I couldn't put it down. Regardless it was a good read, and enjoyed getting to know all the characters and their background. Big twist at the end that I didn't see coming, and probably would never have guessed in a million years. As much as I enjoyed this book, and enjoyed the storyline, I did struggle slightly with the flow of the book. Seemed to take me ages to read it, which I don't really know why - just wasn't a smooth read that gripped me where I couldn't put it down. Regardless it was a good read, and enjoyed getting to know all the characters and their background. Big twist at the end that I didn't see coming, and probably would never have guessed in a million years.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    Great Expectations – it’s one of the patterns of the English novel, the magical device to break the class barriers. Note, a gal with a portion of 50,000 a year might have great expectations but doesn’t meet the pattern. What is missing is the patron, the person who confers on the deserving pauper the means to reach his rightful level. The eponymous Dickens novel is the 19th century paradigm, this (last) century perhaps the major example was the Magus. But is there really a rightful level, is the Great Expectations – it’s one of the patterns of the English novel, the magical device to break the class barriers. Note, a gal with a portion of 50,000 a year might have great expectations but doesn’t meet the pattern. What is missing is the patron, the person who confers on the deserving pauper the means to reach his rightful level. The eponymous Dickens novel is the 19th century paradigm, this (last) century perhaps the major example was the Magus. But is there really a rightful level, is the hero really deserving, or does he have desert thrust upon him, for him to find out that it’s slipping away at the end like the neiges d’, for he never really had it. This is a different kettle. Ruth is the modern day equivalent of the pauper – brought up in foster homes or in care or in the system, depending on your geo-loc. And she’s a girl, and does everything right, no matter how much it seems she does not. I must say the opening device by which she meets her patron is reminiscent of some other plot, I just can’t locate it. After that things go more than according to plan and she is loaded with Gucci and Fendi (understand that metonymically). And now the plot engages greater reaches than whether an aged convict is going back to the hulks or wherever. Impressively taking in GCHQ and the higher levels of British politics, strangely having T May as home secretary and Johnson as PM (neither named). Can Ruth get out alive, free and happy? Can she get over finding that Miss H is Magwitch and Satis House is not really the thing after all? Yes, it ends with an epithalamion on a sunny island. Quite why the groom on Korčula is Serbian, I don’t know, or why pošalji joj ime is also claimed to be Serbian (both, might be, not necessarily).

  9. 4 out of 5

    Monika Armet

    This is an excellent book, full of pace and action that gripped me from the beginning. The reader meets Ruth when she survives a terrorist attack in a London’s café. Ruth is deemed a heroine: she picked up a grenade and threw it in the opposite direction and saved the lives of others, as well as her own. One of the cafe’s guests was Elena Shilkov, a Russian oligarch, and her daughters. Elena tracks Ruth down and offers her a job, a place to stay, a new wardrobe and a credit card. For Ruth, a young This is an excellent book, full of pace and action that gripped me from the beginning. The reader meets Ruth when she survives a terrorist attack in a London’s café. Ruth is deemed a heroine: she picked up a grenade and threw it in the opposite direction and saved the lives of others, as well as her own. One of the cafe’s guests was Elena Shilkov, a Russian oligarch, and her daughters. Elena tracks Ruth down and offers her a job, a place to stay, a new wardrobe and a credit card. For Ruth, a young woman brought up in the care system, it seems an opportunity of a lifetime. It would be silly to refuse. Soon, Ruth finds herself living in Elena’s home and working for her. She seems to enjoy her new post and she proves to be an efficient and trustworthy worker. Elena and her family seem to like Ruth too. Ruth seems dazzled by all the glamour and glitz of a rich lifestyle, something that she has never experienced. However, she soon discovers that things are not quite right in Elena’s household. It also appears that Ruth has few secrets that she didn’t share with her new employer… If Elena finds out, then Ruth will be in deep trouble. Can Ruth get out before it’s too late? That’s all I am willing to say about this book. I’ve read it in a space of two days, I felt that I had to finish it. Ruth and Elena were such strong female leads. I loved Ruth as a character: she was damaged, didn’t trust anyone, but at the same time she was fearless and wanted to make a better life for herself. Surprisingly, I quite liked Elena too: she was outspoken and thought that money could get her anywhere.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Greville Waterman

    Exciting, topical and accurate, this was an excellent thriller concerning the murky lifestyle and excesses of Russian oligarchs. The leading characters were well drawn and credible and Ruth in particular is intriguing and copes brilliantly with everything that is thrown at her. I read this in a couple of sittings and throughly enjoyed it.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kaveri BibliophileRants

    3.75/5 ⭐ This was an intriguing read! I liked the fact that the air of mystery was maintained throughout. It was a little predictable at times but I found it an enjoyable read otherwise.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Olga

    This fast paced conspiracy thriller has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster ride, and will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat. The ending is too neat and in dissonance with the darkness and brutality of the rest of the story, but overall a decent read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Aria Harlow

    this was such an interetsing book to read, that had a such a compelling story along with mystery, suspense ad twists that were unpredictable. I was totally gripped

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    A twisty page-turning story that pulls you in. Original and exciting with a protagonist who gets under your skin. Really enjoyed this book.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gem Louise

    Loved this, kept me in suspense and lots of surprises throughout

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fusun Konyali

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marie O'Donoghue

  18. 4 out of 5

    Janet G.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alan Shaw

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  21. 5 out of 5

    jane Mcvea

  22. 5 out of 5

    Philip North

  23. 5 out of 5

    Felicity Carter

  24. 4 out of 5

    Therese Dormer

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ronronia Adramelek

  26. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Muir

  27. 5 out of 5

    Simone Gandur

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rosemary Quinn

  29. 4 out of 5

    lord derwent

  30. 4 out of 5

    Carol

  31. 4 out of 5

    Kathryn in FL

  32. 5 out of 5

    Annie

  33. 4 out of 5

    Aleks

  34. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Weber

  35. 4 out of 5

    Dee

  36. 5 out of 5

    Taylor

  37. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

  38. 5 out of 5

    Lata

  39. 4 out of 5

    Sandy

  40. 5 out of 5

    Amani

  41. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  42. 5 out of 5

    Joyline

  43. 5 out of 5

    CHM

  44. 4 out of 5

    Angel

  45. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Pearce

  46. 5 out of 5

    Peter

  47. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Klinger

  48. 4 out of 5

    Ronel Davey

  49. 4 out of 5

    Terry Yanowski

  50. 4 out of 5

    Elaine Noble

  51. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  52. 5 out of 5

    Karen Breakell

  53. 5 out of 5

    Saffy

  54. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Campbell

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