My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bookshelves: politics, high-crimes-and-misdemeanors, non-fiction, memoir, in-the-news, fucking-russians, true-crime
I heard about this book when I was listening to the most excellent podcast Mueller She Wrote, partially to satisfy my admitted Mueller obsession and partially just for anything entertaining to listen to through the headphones I am forced into at work to drown out my office clerk’s incessant grunting and sniffling and burping and fake-coughing and sighing and growling, and my office neighbors’ incessant abuse of speakerphone, both offenses for which I believe death by stoning is entirely appropriate.
But I digress.
I’d only had the vaguest notions of what Russian sanctions were all about until MSW host A.G. and her co-hosts went into the Magnitsky Act in some detail and this book was mentioned.
Author Bill Browder was a hedge fun manager who pioneered investing in the crippled Russian economy following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He learned of vast abuses and outright thefts from the Russian people, and himself was targeted by none other than Vladimir Putin among others, when he fought back and went public with the atrocities committed by government officials and the oligarchs who rose from the ashes like malignant phoenixes. The imprisonment, torture, and death of his Russian attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, were what led to the United States’ passage of the Magnitsky Act, which provides for sanctions against Russian individuals known to be involved in such activities.
THE GOOD: This is non-fiction that reads almost like an intrigue novel. High-finance shenanigans are described so that I, who feel rich if I am in possession of $3,000 all at the same time, could understand them. The writing is not Pulitzer-quality, but then, Browder is not a writer by trade, and it is still clear and engaging. The story packs punch after punch and pulls you along. I couldn’t put it down.
THE BAD: Browder comes across as quite likable, to the point that I almost forgot he is one of the capitalists who, in the long run, are not doing the world any favors. It’s all about making money, obscene amounts of money, more money than anyone could ever need, while ignoring the good that could be done for the world at large instead of indulging in $1200-a-night hotel suites at Lake Como and the like. He is quite self-congratulatory for his role, which was central, in getting what justice he could for honest, patriotic Sergei Magnitsky and bringing the Magnitsky Act into being, but glosses right over his own personal profiteering. Does one offset the other? I suppose. Maybe. But still.
THE UGLY: Russian government and oligarchs. Fucking Russians. I am even more appalled than I already was at the interference in U.S. sovereignty, and at the compliance of Americans who have or have not yet been named, may they all choke on their Beluga Gold Line.