Mrs Marchmont in Russia

Mrs Marchmont in Russia. Set in the fascinating time window of immediate post-Soviet Russia, this tale takes Scottish crime novelist Hugo off to that enigmatic land. Deprived of a gap year in youth, he decides now, in his mid-forties, to have one, with tax benefits being an added incentive. At the same time, he can perhaps have his long-expected midlife crisis there too and save his Scottish friends embarrassment. He ends up still not having it. On arriving, he becomes entangled in Mrs. Marchmont’s charitable capers and the life and times of the other eccentric expatriates. Mystery surrounds the poison pen of the local English newspaper gossip columnist. Only solved, pages before the end (don’t cheat and go there). Those scurrilous writings prove entertaining and actually backfire, perhaps intentionally. Hugo joins the Acorn Trust Committee, in his dilettante fashion, being, as ever, full of insecurities and inconsistencies. The other Committee members - Reverend Oliver and Mrs. Fortescue - also have personality aspects which develop in surprising ways, and amuse those clever enough to spot the clues. Mrs. Marchmont, for all her dragon-like ways, is too fascinating to ignore and one simply has to find out what further machinations she will connive at to get her way. And yet… is she as ghastly as all that? Vlad, Hugo’s factotum, gradually grows into a character we come to love. Hugo’s avuncular relationship with him is cemented when he discovers that Vlad’s family have a literary connection to English writer Thomas Hardy. The slender connecting thread is maintained by someone still alive to tell of bonds nurtured in the early 20th century. This sub-plot serves as an antidote to the basically comic tone of the rest of the book. There is some sanity in the world, after all. Why does Hugo’s rustic housekeeper, Mrs Popenka, set her table for three in her attic room? Answer on page….. Is Pedro really a Bulgarian prince? What is Mrs Marchmont’s nephew Pip up to? He has come for the summer, ostensibly to study. Study what, remains to be seen. Is he the son she never had? How do Pip and his student pals almost wreck the reputation of the charitable trust? But will things work out in the end? Readers will chortle at how two high-level politicians are forced to cough up their dollars, on camera. Two romances are woven into the narrative, one unexpected and the other, a little bit precious. Why does the Reverend jump into a St Petersburg canal on his wedding night? (Don’t panic, he survives.) And what does he have that Mrs Marchmont wants, but he won’t relinquish unless conditions are met? The Bulgarian prince somehow gets involved. Hugos’s discovery of the Thomas Hardy connection, and the treasures it unearths, excites literary interest back in Britain. Hugo returns to Auld Scotia and his home in Perthshire. Who leaves Russia with him? Are all the inexplicables left unexplained? Will Mrs. Marchmont stay in Russia? Did she get what she wanted from the Reverend? And then there is Mariah. Dear Mariah, left back in Scotland. Will absence make the heart… ? Will our Hugo get back together with her? Readers are left satisfied and yet wondering what will happen next to the characters, as they move on to new places and situations. We find ourselves drawn to them and caring about them. Hugo’s verbal meanderings add to the story, revealing an honest, if sometimes hilariously pathetic individual, which, if we are frank, we can all relate to. All in all, the story is richly endowed with a colourful cast, adorable and memorable in all their idiosyncratic ways. Author Struan Hamilton moved to Russia to live and work shortly after the end of the Soviet era, and spend the next twenty-three years there. He writes vividly from personal knowledge of the time and place.
ISBN: 9781782990963
Type: Paperback
Pages: 376
Price: $12.98

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