This week's book review is of Luke Harding's Mafia State, an informative read, but light on the spy intrigues that you might expect.
The author was the Russia correspondent for the Guardian for four years in Moscow.
Having been part of an interview with Berizovsky before he and his family left for Moscow, Luke and his family were pretty much instantly singled out by the FSB and underwent a lot of 'funny' games.
The FSB would follow him, do secret break ins and re-arrange things and bug his phones, although nothing more brutal. Interesting, this was a tactic pretty common in the Soviet Union and in East Germany too.
That's pretty much it for the spying part and the rest of the book talked about the Putin power structure, rampant corruption, Chechnya and (lack of) media freedom in Russia.
It took the RF four years before they kicked Harding out, most likely for his highly critical articles of the Putin Administration after the Wikileaks cables broke.
For me, the most the most interesting parts of the book were the ones that dealt with media control and actual lack of political freedom (although no big surprise there), as well as the bits on the corruption structure here.
It was also curious to see that the FSB, basically, uses a lot of the same tactics as the KGB did with anti-government elements.
Hats off to the author, he didn't back down from any sensitive issues in his time here and he reported things exactly the way he saw them. It takes balls to do that in a country that is pissed off with you and making it known, especially when you have a family and stability to think off.
All in all, i'd have to say worth a read for those interested in Russia under Putin (although it's obvious the author's opinion is negative, to say the least).
If you're after more of a spy extravaganza or an inside view on the security services, you can probably pass this one up, if your interest is more in modern Russia and some of its negatives, give it a read. Plenty of food for thought in this one.