The Man from St Petersburg by Ken Follett is a historical novel reprinted from the late 80s and is set in the period just prior to the Great War of 1914 to 1918. It is certainly not as well researched, as well imagined or as authentic to period as compared with some of the more recently written historical fiction, though having said that it is nonetheless an easy enough read as long as you won’t get annoyed by the odd historical glitch.

The Man from St Petersburg of the title is a Russian anarchist who decided to try to stop Russia being embroiled in the likely coming war between Britain and Germany by assassinating a Russian negotiator sent on behalf of the Tsar to look at alliances with Britain. The negotiator is a relative by marriage to Lord Walden who will negotiate on behalf of the British Government. Walden’s wife is Russian and central to the story as is Charlotte his headstrong daughter who is due to come out as a debutante and who is much more interested in finding out about politics and women’s rights.

There is obviously some link between Charlotte’s mother and the anarchist Feliks and the narrative charts the successive attempts at assassination against a backdrop of the privileged life of the Waldens which is soon to be torn apart.