‘Silent Oligarch’: a terrific post-Cold War espionage thriller

Add Chris Morgan Jones to the ever-growing list of fine writers who have found ways to reinvent the international espionage thriller long after the end of the Cold War.

Fans of the genre probably recall the reports of the demise of the John LeCarre/Len Deighton spy story after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

What would they write about after the end of the Soviet Union?

Of course, the tension between the United States and Russia has continued long after the so-called “war” ended and the introduction of capitalism there has only made the old rivalries more interesting.

“The Silent Oligarch” — which was published Monday by The Penguin Press — is a beautifully written thriller about how the power of money has been replacing the power of the state in the former Soviet Union, and how the West is no closer to understanding the way things work there than we ever were.

Jones follows two characters, Richard Lock, an English lawyer who has helped to make Konstantin Malin one of the richest men on earth, and Benjamin Webster, a former journalist who once covered the vast changes in Russia but now works for a London corporate intelligence firm.

Lock has helped to build Malin’s empire through a web of shell companies, and various forms of banking chicanery, but he is tiring of the strain of dealing with a very sinister business partner. He secretly longs for a way out of his relationship with Malin and a way back to his ex-wife and child in London.

Webster is a tarnished idealist who once lost a Russian journalist he loved when she knew too much and was murdered for that knowledge. Now happily married and a father, the man is nevertheless thrilled when his company is hired to bring down Malin (who might have been behind the killing of the journalist).

Jones cuts back and forth between these two characters, making it clear that they have more in common than they know. The suspense builds as Webster tries to convince Lock that there might be a way out of the deadly Malin’s clutches.

Jones knows whereof he speaks, with a background in business intelligence that — according to his bio — included working for Russian oligarchs, New York banks and Middle Eastern governments.

“The Silent Oligarch” is a smashing debut that will leave most readers anxious to follow Webster on his next assignment.