Winner of the Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award 2008.
Evdokia knew that the crowd was here for her. Hunting her. From the back seat of the Cadillac, she peered into their faces beyond the glass. Angry looks. Perplexed and desolate. Some were already shouting, trying the handles on the doors. There were Russian voices. English voices. Several times the sound of her name.She was certain these people would kill her before they’d let her through the terminal and onto the plane. Beside her, Zharkov thrust the door open and Evdokia stepped out following, thinking she must be mad. Just close your eyes, she thought. Keep your feet marching like the Pioneer Youth. Guns under the jackets of her escorts. This might be it, she realised. A chaos building, a climbing potential. Defector’s Wife Dies in Airport Shootout.
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 his wife 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?
Kabita Dhara, Readings Carlton
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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