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Stray Dog Winterby David Francis
Synopses & Reviews
Darcy Bright, a hapless young Australian artist, receives a surprising birthday present from his elusive half-sister Fin, ostensibly in Moscow on a prestigious fellowship painting industrial landscapes. Fin sends Darcy a ticket to the Soviet Union housed in a leather money belt, and an invitation to join her — only if he's willing to bring the money belt and its contents.
Although their relationship has, in the past, swung between passionate attachment and startling disloyalty, Darcy has been drifting in his own life, and sees this as an opportunity for direction and purpose. Or, at the very least, adventure, and decides to put himself in his sister's hands, bringing himself and the belt into the USSR.
Upon his arrival into the bleak Soviet winter of 1984, Darcy is quickly engulfed in Fin's mysterious life there, and he becomes entangled in an extortion plot designed to change the course of Cold War history. And as Fin's true intentions for her brother unfold, the intricacies of the bond between the estranged siblings start to unravel.
With Stray Dog Winter, David Francis has entered Graham Greene territory, placing a naïve hero in the center of political intrigue and betrayal at the end of the Cold War. Atmospheric and suspenseful, this novel is pure Soviet noir, a remarkable tale of love, passion, politics, identity, and espionage.
"This overwrought sophomore effort from novelist Francis (The Great Inland Sea) finds young gay Australian artist Darcy Bright reluctantly traveling to Moscow in 1984 at the beck of his half-sister/cousin Fin, a fellow artist commissioned to paint the city's 'industrial landscapes.' Interspersing flashbacks of Darcy and Fin's childhood, Francis does little to explain the deep connection, or even the anomalous sexual attraction Darcy feels for the aloof Fin; still, he's helpless against Fin's manipulations, which include her using Darcy's portfolio to score her job. An innocent abroad pulled in different directions by strong-willed people, Darcy must also contend with expatriate Cuban Aurelio, a Moscow patrolman who rounds up hooligans and 'homosexes.' After Darcy's brief affair with Aurelio, the novel ricochets into thriller territory, layered with blackmail, political intrigue, sex, secret agendas and escalating violence. As the plot becomes more tangled, however, Francis's impressionistic style and lack of restraint ('He removed Aurelio's coat. It was heavy, like a shawl of dread') stand in the way of clarity, rendering his breakneck plot more exhausting than page-turning." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Vibrant with the discordant images of political repression and smoldering sexuality, Francis' book ethereally transports readers to a preternatural time where nothing and no one are as they seem." Booklist
"Elegantly written and grippingly suspenseful, David Francis's Stray Dog Winter takes readers right into the heart of Graham Greene country." Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and Paint It Black
"[C]ontains the ingredients of a classic thriller....[The main character's] holiday on ice provides enough cryptic glances, bullet-ridden warnings, and cliff-hanging escapes to fill two page-turners. Francis's prose has the sparse elegance of a Xeriscape. Every detail holds water." Los Angeles Magazine
"Mysterious, intense and passionate, Stray Dog Winter is a chilling snapshot of a lost era, a political thriller, and a book of rare beauty. Like Out Stealing Horses, this story is as stunning word by word as it is in its rich entirety. Not to be missed." Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Story of a Marriage and The Confessions of Max Tivoli
"This is a wonderful book, the work of a full-fledged talent who deserves to be read widely and well." Darin Strauss, author of More Than It Hurts You and Chang and Eng
"If Alan Furst and Edmund White were ever to collaborate, the result would be something as wonderful as Stray Dog Winter. Written with beautiful style and frightening intrigue, David Francis's new novel is a genuine cold war thriller, and a work of art." David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife and The Danish Girl
"A literary thriller that melds cold war suspense with startling sexual intrigue, Stray Dog Winter is a fascinating, genre-bending mélange of dark state conspiracies and darker family secrets. Superbly written and profoundly original, Stray Dog Winter is a smart, provocative page-turner." Darren Star
"In beautiful, exacting strokes, David Francis restores to life a lost landscape from our recent past, luminously and terrifyingly evoking a time and place of mistrust, deception and fear. A novel that combines high literary art with a riveting narrative, Stray Dog Winter reminds us that there is no more dangerous game than the search for love." Mark Sarvas, author of Harry, Revised, host and editor of The Elegant Variation
"David Francis has pulled off that most difficult of feats — the elegantly-written, lyrical thriller. This is a novel with intensity, a formidable landscape, and a plot that kept me reading all night. Impressive and compulsively readable." Susan Straight, author of A Million Nightingales and Highwire Moon, finalist for the National Book Award
"Stray Dog Winter is a disquietingly well-crafted thriller...indicative of the author's range and authority." The Melbourne Age
"Stray Dog Winter is a remarkable achievement on many levels, from the poetic elegance of the prose to the atmospheric setting of the Russian capital in winter....David Francis is a writer of considerable skill...he combines a literary style with a compelling narrative about love passion and betrayal." The Canberra Times
Darcy Bright, a restless young artist, receives a surprising birthday present from his elusive half-sister Fin: a ticket to the Soviet Union housed in a leather money belt. Together only briefly during their youth, Darcy and Fin are both estranged by the distance between them, and yet inextricably bound by the secrets of their childhood. So when Fin — ostensibly in Moscow on a fellowship to paint industrial landscapes — invites Darcy to join her there, her wary brother doesnt resist.
Soon after his arrival in the bleak Soviet winter, Darcy, already engulfed in Fin's mysterious new life there, becomes entangled in an extortion plot designed to change the course of Cold War history. And as the intricacies of their bond as brother and sister are revealed, Darcy uncovers Fins involvement in an unexpected cause of her own, leading to a confrontation with profound and deadly consequences.
Atmospheric and suspenseful, Stray Dog Winter is a remarkable novel about love, passion, politics, and identity.
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