What a claustrophobic read this is. Konstantin, the book’s Russian protagonist, is steamrollered into a job he doesn’t want and has no clear idea of its end objective. After collecting a team of scoundrels he leads them to break into a cash-counting facility for an item very important people want to get their hands on. In return, they can take as much of the cash as they can handle. The facility is crammed with cameras and traps, and the reward for failure is a long incarceration, or worse.

You’re with Konstantin throughout, even with his background in the Russian Special Services and involvement in the Chechen conflict (which is shown through flashbacks). He’s dodgy. He’s an expert in violence and planning unsavoury operations. He dresses like a scraggy arse and lives in an abandoned part of the city with an arsenal in his cellar which could wipe out a battalion. But, there’s a moral core to the man which sets him against everything bad he’s experienced – and here, despite the high stakes, he’s careful to not waste innocent lives. Nixon tells the story like he’s leading you through dark woods and, like Konstantin, you shake at letting go of the black thread which leads him. The lawyer who invites him to the job knows only breadcrumb details. The team he assembles are unknown misfits and borderline psychopaths, one of whom has a trigger finger unconnected to hsi brain. And if Konstantin is successful, will he even have a chance to revel in his glory?

Nixon’s prose is spare and sharp, but it plays on all the senses and tightens your stomach at the tension. Who to trust? Who to feel for? I’ll have to get involved in the rest of the series, now.

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