The Last Russian Doll

Berkley. Mar. 2023. 416p. ISBN 9780593547984. $27. F
DEBUT Rosie, an Oxford student, is to marry and enter a rewarding life. Instead, in a desperate compulsion, she takes a summer job in Moscow as an assistant to a hugely popular Russian author. Why? After her father and sister were shot in an unsolved killing in the family home in Moscow, Rosie and her mother found safe haven in England, but her mother has recently died, deranged with alcohol and terror. She leaves for Rosie a porcelain doll and some fairy tales. Rosie means to track down her father and sister’s killer and put the ghosts to rest. In a twisting timeline, Rosie’s story in 1991 loops back and forth with that of Tonya, her grandmother, beginning in 1915. At heart, this debut novel is a historical romance of young lovers united in revolution and in bed but thrashed by cruel fates time and again.
VERDICT Loesch’s writing can be lyrically evocative. Many red herrings and detours mar the story’s momentum so that the strong opening pages fade to a mélange of thriller, mystery, and fantasy.
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