Review | Thursday 30 July 2009
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.