Document Z: A Novel

Andrew Croome

Document Z: A Novel
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Document Z: A Novel

Andrew Croome

Canberra, 1951. The Cold War is at its height. Into an atmosphere of paranoia, rumour and suspicion, Vladimir and Evdokia Petrov are among a group of new arrivals at the Soviet Embassy in Canberra. Both are party loyalists, working for the MVD, Moscow intelligence. Yet all is not well in the new city of Canberra. The atmosphere in the Embassy is tense and suspicious; the Ambassador resents their presence, and is secretly working to have Vladimir disgraced and recalled. In the meantime, ASIO are determined to discover who in this new group works for the MVD. Only three short years later, Vladimir has defected and Evdokia is held prisoner at the Soviet Embassy, waiting to be transported back to Russia to face punishment or death for his crime. How did it come to this? A tightly told story of secrets, lies, deception and betrayal - both personal and political - Document Z is a taut and atmospheric novel of political espionage and intrigue, which brings our recent history vividly and immediately to life.

Review

Document Z opens with a scene that may be familiar to many Australians – Evdokia Petrov being escorted onto a plane at Mascot airport by burly KGB agents, her face twisted in anguish. What follows is her defection to Australia to join her husband who had already gone into hiding, but it is this scene that Andrew Croome’s book hinges on, the obvious pain that was involved in the decision and what the Petrovs must have gone through before making such a life-changing, and potentially dangerous, move.

This is Croome’s debut novel and it is masterful in its examination of the human story behind the political story. Winner of the 2008 Australian/Vogel prize, Document Z traces the decline of the Petrovs, both members of the ministry for internal affairs in Russia (the MVD), as they start to realise the hostility they are facing within the Russian consulate, especially after the death of Lavrentiy Beria, the Soviet security chief.

A gripping read, it is surely a testament to Croome’s writing that he keeps you hooked to the end, even when the outcome is one that has been etched into the history of Australia’s Cold War years.

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