The Russian Passenger has the overall form of a classic thriller. A Munich cab driver, Harry Willeman, picks up a Russian woman who has stolen $4 million from the Russian mob. The Russian, Sonia, was the companion of a mob boss and the bookkeeper, and wanted out. The cab driver offers to drive her to Luxembourg. But they are pursued and soon the driver is a target of the mafia, with no way to escape.
But this is a very odd thriller. Harry is 52, and in his life has been involved with three women: an American when he was 16, his wife Ellen when he was in his early 20s, and now, 30 years after his divorce from Ellen, Sonia. In that 30 years he has lived alone, consumed with remorse over a never-quite-specified wrong that he did to Ellen; a wrong that indirectly led to the death of their daughter.
It took about 60 pages for me to warm up to this novel. Partly that was due to a mediocre translation and very poor editing. But finally the novel begins to work, and draws you in to both the chase story and the gradual revelations about Harry’s life.