Critics have described this story as satirical but it made me sick to my stomach. The theme of human greed, corruption and self-interest is continuous from the start to the finish of this novel. And it's not pleasant to read. Shemeretev, the calm and caring nurse of a once powerful man is an innocent in all this - certainly too innocent for his own good and unfortunately pays the price for honesty in the cruellest way possible.
'So let's remember what you are. You're a crook. You're an embezzler. When the Russian state was drowning in debt, when the Afghan veterans and their war widows were starving in the winter, you and your friends, in the goodness of your hearts, paid Boris Nikolayevich ten kopecks on the ruble for your mine and your oil wells and your banks. That's what people are going to remember when the tax prosecutor comes calling, Lev Fyodorovich. Now, how many of your friends in the duma are going to want to associate themselves with that? And by the way, how many of them would welcome their own visit from the tax prosecutor?'
Trikovsky gazed at him incredulously. 'Do you really think this is the way to save Russia? To have you and your KGB henchmen deciding everything?'
'Do you think it's to have you and your fellow crooks doing it?'
'I'll take my chances with the people.'