by Sergei Lebedev

Political / Legal Thrillers Translated Fiction Debut Books of the Month Debuts Star Books Thriller and Suspense

LoveReading Expert Review of Untraceable

Beautifully written, this political spy thriller from Russia is an exciting, penetrating, absolute whammy of a read.

Falling with exquisite yet hammer-hard precision this beautifully written political spy thriller from a Russian author feels like a unique read. When the Soviet Union collapses a chemist who developed an untraceable lethal poison defects. After a murder occurs using the poison, two men are sent to silence Professor Kalitin. An intriguing start sets this novel up and the plot continues to bubble and scheme away. I almost felt as though I should be swearing an official secrets act in order to read Untraceable. Sergei Lebedev has created the most fascinating and readable novel. His words echoed though me, huge in scope yet intimate in detail and emotion. The translation by Antonina W Bouis is fabulous, sometimes translated novels make you feel at home, this quite rightly ensured that I realised just how much I don’t know. At times I was left reeling, desperate to read more, to understand more and the ending hit with a shockwave. Deservedly a LoveReading Star Book Untraceable is a beautiful, disturbing and penetrating read. 

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Liz Robinson

Untraceable Synopsis

An extraordinary and angry Russian novel about poisons of all kinds: physical, moral and political.

Untraceable is a wonderful piece of fiction rooted in the recent history of Russia's state assassinations, especially the attempted poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

Professor Kalitin is a ruthless, narcissistic chemist who has developed an untraceable, extremely lethal poison called Neophyte while working in a secret city on an island in the Russian far east. When the Soviet Union collapses, he defects and is given a new identity in Germany.

After an unrelated Russian is murdered with Kalitin's poison, his cover is blown and he's drawn into the German investigation of the death. Two special forces killers with a lot of Chechen blood on their hands are sent to silence him - using his own undetectable poison. Their journey to their target is full of blunders, mishaps, holdups and accidents.

Urgently topical and compellingly readable.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781800246614
Publication date: 2nd September 2021
Author: Sergei Lebedev
Publisher: Apollo an imprint of Head of Zeus
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 256 pages
Primary Genre Espionage and Spy Thriller
Other Genres:
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Closing date: 03/02/2022

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What To Read After Untraceable

A Question of Time
The Constant Gardener
The Angry Sea
Black Sun Based on a true story, the critically acclaimed Soviet thriller

Untraceable Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.

This book is small but perfectly formed. What it manages to convey between the covers through its intense detail and language is quite inspiring. The history, the characters and the atmosphere are haunting.

This book is small but perfectly formed. What it manages to convey between the covers through its intense detail and use of language is quite inspiring. The history, the characters and the atmosphere are haunting. This book needs to be read slowly to enable you to appreciate the use of language and the detail in the story. The characters are all quite complex and believable, but at its heart is a really good and compelling story. It brings home the reality of what life must have been like and still is like for those living in the shadow of Russia.

Lynne Packer

An exciting and gripping novel and fascinating to experience it from the perspective of the ‘other’ side.

This is a book about a number of characters who have taken the wrong path. One could have been using his technical abilities to help humanity and to save life but the medical emblems on his coat are a deceit. Instead, he and his colleagues chose to destroy and to practice the art of concealed death.

It covers a highly relevant subject given the high-profile Russian poisonings of dissidents and defectors over recent years but from the perspective of someone involved and complicit in the practice of assassination.

Very cleverly, the author draws us into some aspects of the psyche of the perpetrators introducing an insight into their perspective on life which if not sympathetic, enables us to experience their anxieties and frustrations as the story unfolds. These are not mindless automatons dedicated to some post-Soviet cause. They have thoughts and regrets just like anyone else but these people are tainted by their tradecraft. They acknowledge their lack of morality and have come to accept it. They have taken extreme risks, even with their loved ones but they carry on along a morally questionable line almost as if it is their fate.

It is a fast-moving tale, full of clear descriptions of life both from the Soviet past and of a present-day journey from east to west, culminating in an inevitable climax. An exciting and gripping novel and fascinating to experience it from the perspective of the ‘other’ side.

Seeta Ojah Maharaj

An uncomfortable but worthwhile read that needs your full attention.

You have to be in the mood to read some novels and Untraceable is certainly one of them. In these difficult times this novel about poisons and assassinations was a little hard to get to grips with but once I got into it, it began to move along.

And I’m glad I persevered. It’s very well researched and translated and although I found it challenging, the idea of an untraceable poison and the scientists obsession about not stopping until he had succeeded in creating it is well executed. Of course, there is the other side of the coin too. When things go wrong the state needs to find and destroy the source and so Untraceable follow the men who have to find the scientist who has defected.

Would I recommend it? Yes, with a caveat to keep going. The insights you gain are enlightening and although it is a work of fiction, one can imagine that it’s not a million miles from the truth.

Heather Byrne

Inspired, it appears, by the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury in 2018 this book rather confirms fears of how Russia operated in it’s recent past, and disturbingly through to the present.

Inspired, it appears, by the Skripal poisonings in Salisbury in 2018 this book rather confirms fears of how Russia operated in it’s recent past, and disturbingly through to the present.

One of it’s main characters is a leading chemist whose life has been obsessed with creating a deadly, untraceable poison. Many lives have already taken, both animal and human, in his experiments. He defects to the west when the USSR breaks up taking a sample of his poison with him. He longs to carry on with his deadly work but no-one wants him in a lab anymore.

The other main character is a war-damaged special forces operative who is sent to assassinate the chemist with his own type of poison.

The plot however seems secondary to the interest the author has in the history and minds of the characters. Not an easy book to read therefore in some ways but one that brings sharply in focus the secrecy and fear still embedded in the countries we used to call “behind the iron curtain” !

Gillian Wilmott

Sergei Lebedev Press Reviews


'Not since Alexander Solzhenitsyn has Russia had a writer as obsessed as Sergei Lebedev with that country's history or the traces it has left on the collective consciousness. Rich in textures, colors, sounds, and visual details, wonderfully rendered into English by Antonina W. Bouis ... Lebedev is arguably the best of Russia's younger generation of writers' Orlando Figes, New York Review of Books.

'Enthralling and exquisite, by one of modern Russia's finest writers' Philippe Sands, author of East West Street.

'One of Russia's most interesting young novelists takes on Putin, poison and power in this unique novel; Lebedev provides a fascinating window on modern Russia' Anne Applebaum.

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781800246614
Publication date: 02/09/2021
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781800246591
Publication date: 04/03/2021
Format: Hardback

ISBN: 9781800246607
Publication date: 04/03/2021
Format: Paperback

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About Sergei Lebedev

Sergei Lebedev was born in Moscow in 1981 and worked for seven years on geological expeditions in northern Russia and Central Asia. Lebedev is a poet, essayist and journalist. His novels have been translated into many languages and received great acclaim in the English-speaking world. The New York Review of Books has hailed Lebedev as 'the best of Russia’s younger generation of writers' Antonina W. Bouis is one of the leading translators of Russian literature working today. She has translated over 80 works from authors such as Evgeny Yevtushenko, Mikhail Bulgakov, Andrei Sakharov, Sergei Dovlatov and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. ...

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