Everything turned into a blur of claws and swings and shouts and punches until Maxim felt something warm in his hands, something he was absolutely compelled to squeeze until his hands met each other in the middle, and when clarity returned to his eyes, he saw Pyotr’s eyeless, bloodied face turn a livid purple as he snapped the man’s neck. (4)
If the above excerpt taken from Raymond Khoury’s Rasputin’s Shadow does not seduce you, I am not sure what will. This historical fiction novel, ripe with espionage, intrigue, and vivid characterizations may turn even the most devoted admirer of memoirs (like myself) into a defector. Having to keep this novel hidden between readings from my hub, a lover of spy fiction, I embraced not only the complex storyline and subplots, but also the no-holds-barred descriptions:
Despite a skull that was so pulverized it looked like it had been made out of plasticine before some giant baby had squashed it out of shape, it was still clear that we were looking at a white male adult with dark, short hair, somewhere in his thirties and in good shape, at least before the fall. (23)
The triple-XL Weyland Enterprises T-shirt stretched against the folds of his wobbling flesh as he grabbed the menu and started eating the entire thing with his eyes. (67)
Need examples of visual imagery for a class you may be teaching? Look no further . . . Rasputin’s Shadow definitely exemplifies the “how to” for showing versus telling in writing.
Hoping for the presence of machismo in this novel? Well, readers, you have a plethora of agents and hostiles from which to choose. My favorite, of course, is Reilley, point man on the investigation with a generous sprinkling of sensitivity in regards to his four-year-old son Alex. Because of him, I may just forgo the country omelet for the garden omelet as he does at IHOP.
For the purposes of book club, though, a variety of food choices may be necessary in order to represent the different cultures in this novel. Perhaps, a medley of Russian pastries with shots of the Sledgehammer’s preferred brand of vodka as well as Korean pastries with green tea (but definitely pass on the poisonous vino) in order to encourage discussion over Rasputin’s Shadow.