Mark Moorstein,
Red Reflections
(Writers Club, 2000)

The last 120 pages of Mark Moorstein's Red Reflections are suspenseful and daring: a real page-turner. Unfortunately, Red Reflections is a 425-page book.

Though Moorstein's first published novel starts slowly, it builds into an admirable effort. In the story, Mike Berenson, a corporate lawyer, is charged with the murder of Alexai Ribakov, a Russian former client who operated a camera factory. Someone apparently pushed Ribakov from a great height, and rather bad though concise poetry found in Berenson's private plane is incriminating. The ensuing FBI interrogation painstakingly unravels layers of intrigue that have swirled around Berenson since he attended a legal summit in Moscow and first encountered the beautiful, secretive and contradictory Anna Severova.

Throughout the several years depicted in the narrative, Anna enters, re-enters and generally causes emotional chaos in Mike's life. She is aloof then trusting, distant then passionate. And Mike becomes obsessed with her, intertwining the plots of a love story and spy thriller. Is Anna a spy? Is her husband Peter a spy? Are all of the other Russians whose names I can't remember spies? Is Mike a spy and if so, who is he working for? And why does he keep falling for promiscuous women?

Moorstein builds up the questions and answers some of them eventually. He plants clues along the way, though some are so oblique that they require explanations from the characters. He also includes plenty of technical jargon involving legal cases, piloting a small plane and still photography to enhance the realistic language in the story. Mike's late wife was a respected photographer and her protege maintains a studio in his home to allow for the Klin Camera aspects of the plot and for occasional nude modeling. Moorstein also writes intriguing sex scenes.

My primary complaint about the book involves the interview scenario. I found myself dreading the end of a flashback and the inevitable return to the microphone and videotape. The story definitely accelerates when the FBI finally releases Mike, and he and Anna flee to Russia, supposedly to clear his name.

Red Reflections has a great deal of potential and, eventually, it gets around to being a thriller.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]

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