Press & Reviews
  • The Translator Reviews
  • Harriet Crawley |  The Translator
The Translator Reviews

“A classic thriller of the new Cold War.”--Antony Beevor, author of Stalingrad

 “Prescient and pacey, this book sizzles with the author’s expertise.”--Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War: Putin's Threat to Russia and the West

 “The Translator is an intricate, stylish political thriller brimful of poetry and love. Harriet Crawley’s storytelling is audacious and irresistible.” --Rachel Polonsky, author of Molotov’s Magic Lantern

Sunday Times Thriller of The Month: Harriet Crawley’s The Translator combines a love story and a spy yarn. A last-minute choice as the prime minister’s translator on a trip to Moscow, bookish Clive discovers President Petrov’s interpreter is Marina, his former lover from when he worked at the UN. The novel posits an Operation Hades in which Petrov/Putin aims to stymie the West’s internet access by severing cables off the Cornish coast. MI6 wants Clive to use Marina to get details of the plan, and she agrees, but both are under near-continuous surveillance. This makes for an unusual but enthralling blend of a highly topical scenario with an old-fashioned, civilised take on espionage, in which the hero’s version of coming in from the cold is getting back to translating Chekhov. There’s no shortage of suspense, but also room for a vivid portrayal of everyday life in Moscow.”--Sunday Times 

“Fast-paced political-cum-spy thriller with a chilling ring of authenticity and an eerie closeness to present events in Ukraine. Unputdownable”---Xan Smiley, The Economist.

LITERARY REVIEW Crime Novels of The Year :”An elegant account of spying in modern Russia, featuring Foreign Office translator Clive Franklin and Marina Volina, a friend of his from years ago.” 

THE TIMES: THRILLERS OF THE YEAR: Some years ago Rishi Sunak identified in a policy paper some years ago that if Russia cut the cables off Cornwall that carry internet traffic across the Atlantic, the effects would be devastating. Harriet Crawley’s thriller, drawing on her insider’s love of a wonderfully realised Moscow, runs with this idea. Can Marina Volina, the favourite interpreter of President Serov (you-know-who), navigate Kremlin power politics and pass details of just such a plot to her fellow translator and former flame, Clive Franklin (a shoo-in role for Hugh Grant)?

THE TIMES: BEST NEW THRILLERS FOR MARCH 2023 — POWER POLITICS IN THE KREMLIN AND MOREBook of the Month:”A  thriller must have something about it if it can survive being inspired by a policy paper written by the prime minister. Harriet Crawley’s The Translator centres on a Russian plan to attack Britain by cutting the cables off the Cornish coast that carry internet traffic across the Atlantic. As Rishi Sunak identified some years ago, in today’s internet-based society such an attack would be devastating. Unbeknown to President Serov (you-know-who), his favourite interpreter, Marina Volina, has had enough. Her foster son, a hacker, has been done in after discovering compromising information about a powerful player in the Kremlin regime, and now she wants out. Her chance comes when her former flame Clive Franklin (Hugh Grant, if they ever film it) arrives in Moscow as the translator for a British delegation. Can the resourceful Marina navigate treacherous Kremlin power politics and pass on details of the plot? And will Clive ever get back to his study of Chekhov? Harriet Crawley’s approach to international intrigue may be old school, but it’s also highly readable, drawing as it does on her own family background in intelligence, and above all on an insider’s love of a wonderfully realised Moscow.”---The Times

“Interpreters, like waiters, are often little noticed. But they too have eyes and ears, and proximity to power means they can pick up all sorts of intelligence. In Harriet Crawley’s The Translator Marina Volina is the translator for Russia’s president Serov. He is planning to cut Britain’s underwater internet cables and trusts Marina absolutely — which is a mistake, for she wants out. When her former lover, Clive Franklin, arrives in Moscow to translate for the visiting British prime minister, Marina passes him what she learns, while drawing increasing suspicion from some very dangerous enemies. Crawley, herself a fluent Russian speaker, steadily ramps up the tension and Moscow and the Kremlin are finely drawn, although there could be more menace in Marina’s interactions with her boss. This is an engaging and, in the best sense, old-fashioned spy story.” ---Financial Times


Ms. Crawley, a former journalist, has lived and worked in Russia, and her novel is rich with up-to-the-moment detail. With “The Translator,” she has produced an espionage tale and a Romeo-and-Juliet romance zipped into one irresistible package. Clive Franklin, the first character we meet in Harriet Crawley’s “The Translator,” set in 2017, is said to be among the best diplomatic interpreters in Great Britain: “English into Russian or vice versa, whatever the occasion demanded.” Seconded to the office of Prime Minister Martha Maitland, he’s on sabbatical in the Scottish Highlands when an urgent phone call summons him back to his country’s service: “Important meeting. Tomorrow. In Moscow. With President Serov. . . . A helicopter will pick you up.” The words Maitland utters to Serov at that high-level summit are angry ones: stop cyber-attacks against British institutions; cease incursions into U.K. airspace; end assassinations by Russian agents on international soil. Clive does nothing to soften the tone of either leader’s remarks—even as he struggles to hide his reaction to the presence of Serov’s translator, Marina Volina, with whom he had an intense affair years ago when both were posted at the United Nations.  With stealth and cunning, Clive and Marina resume that relationship over the following week, eluding their watchers’ surveillance. Marina, ashamed of her collaboration with her corrupt government, whispers to Clive: “I want out.” Would his British employers accept her as a defector, she asks, if she could deliver valuable information about Russia’s top-secret, destructive plans? It’s a propitious time for such a bid, with the Russians preparing to attack the undersea fiber-optic cables along the English coast. It’s also a dangerous one, with a high-ranking general already focused on Marina as a potential traitor.---Wall Street Journal


“Part love story, part spy thriller, Crawley’s fifth book relies on her extensive knowledge of modern Russia. Her heroine is Marina Volina, chief interpreter to the Russian president, who once fell in love with Clive Franklin, now acting as translator to the British prime minister on a visit to Moscow. The two have not met since they were in New York together and she left him to marry a Russian, who has subsequently died. Marina has already decided she wants to escape the grip of Russia and come to England. Then she discovers a plot to sabotage the undersea cables that link the U.S. to the UK, which would threaten the international economy by collapsing communications. Together, Marina and Clive decide to try to stop the intended attack by supplying information to MI6 — but can they manage to save the European economy? Brimming with intricate detail on Russia today, it is both moving and terrifying — a compelling combination.”---Daily Mail


“In Harriet Crawley’s enjoyable thriller, the title character, Clive Franklin, plans to spend his holidays translating a spot of Chekhov for fun while hiking in the Scottish Highlands. Clive is technically an interpreter, working with diplomats and politicians, but this term makes him “wince”; he prefers to call himself a “translator”, as he thinks this makes him sound more creative. What’s more, he always translates – or, rather, interprets – from his native English into Russian, because “it’s all about controlling what the other side hears”. Controlling the flow of information is a key theme of this fast-paced novel.

Urgently needed at a meeting between the British prime minister and the Russian president, poor Clive is yanked off a Munro by the Foreign Office and whisked to Moscow with the diplomatic bag. There he meets his old flame and fellow interpreter Marina, now working for President Serov, with whom she has a queasily filial relationship. Clive and Marina rekindle their romance, only to be drawn into a deadly network of counterespionage and political assassinations; they must race against time to save Britain from the schemes of a hostile Great Power. If all this sounds a little Richard Hannay, it is – Clive’s blend of British discretion and bilingual aplomb recalls the protean talents of John Buchan’s most famous hero. And although this time the enemy state is Russia, not Germany, and the prize at stake is the UK’s telecommunication links rather than naval secrets, The Translator feels very much like an updated The Thirty-Nine Steps, complete with fake news, WhatsApp and smartwatches.

The novel is enriched by the author’s obvious familiarity with the minutiae of Russian life and character, from the niceties of chatting to your chauffeur in a bugged car to the hidden significance of ladies’ footwear. In every chapter cliché is redeemed by attention to detail: Russia, as seen through Clive’s seasoned expat gaze, really is as absurd as Crawley paints it. In a wonderfully ludicrous set piece Clive and Marina run the Moscow marathon pursued by FSB heavies. The Russian president is a delightfully nasty composite: his burly joviality is Yeltsin-like, while his geopolitical ambitions and his name (Serov means “grey”) evoke Vladimir Putin. The British embassy staff are colourful and convincing, while even the more generic characters (such as the FSB general known as “the Wolf”; Marina’s touchingly loyal concierge) ring true…” Times Literary Supplement


 “Clive Franklin is a Russian language expert for the Foreign Office (UK) and he is on a sabbatical in the Highlands. In fact, he is at Lochleven, which coincidentally recently featured as a location in Peter May’s climate thriller A Winter Grave. Clive is brought urgently back to work, to accompany a delegation to Moscow, headed by the Prime Minister. He is clear that he wishes to be considered a translator, not an interpreter and slides into the job with ease. Early on he has down time to revisit familiar places and familiarise himself once again with streets and buildings of the impressive city, and of course, a trip to the Bolshoi is in order. The Metropol gets a good look in, with its curious coloured marble and which was made so famous through the Amor Towles’ novel A Gentleman in Moscow, where the hotel was a character in itself. The British PM might be a woman in this novel and Serov might be Putin by any other name, the acuity and similarities for readers cannot be overlooked. There is Russian interference, blame and bluster, fudging and smoke screens, threats and counter-threats that all feel so depressingly familiar from contemporary international relations in the real world, the deviousness is excellently captured in this novel. SEE VIDEO PRESENTATION. Clive happens upon an old lover, Marina, interpreter to the Russian President, who plays games and is apparently slow to recognise him. But she has an agenda. The two uncover a plot, designed by Russia, that will cause immeasurable harm to the West. Clive, a man keen to remain in the background, is catapulted into a tight web of intrigue and espionage. There are so many plates to keep spinning for this quiet man, as he reconnects with Marina in a way that he would never have envisaged. The sense of place is excellent in The Translator and as the story progresses, the tension and pace ratchet up, symbolically mirrored in the two main characters running the Moscow Marathon, the FSB hard on their heels. This really is a political spy thriller for our times.”---TripFiction


Here’s a thriller set in Russia where the author clearly knows her subject. “She lived and worked there for 20 years and speaks Russian fluently – yet if, like me, you miss the mention on page one that, although published in 2023, the story is set in 2017, you’ll think you’re in a parallel reality. President Serov is not Putin, Prime Minister Martha Maitland is neither Theresa May nor Sunak, and Russia has not invaded Ukraine. For a while I wondered if the book had been written before February 24th 2022 but published anyway, regardless of Putin’s brainstorm. But no. It’s 2017. And what happens did happen (sort of) when Russia plotted to cripple the West by cutting the undersea fibre-optic cables that drive the internet. Here, the translator has realized that that is only step one. Now we’re in familiar thriller territory. Only two people can save the West, two translators, one Russian, one British, and they were lovers once, till she left him for another man. Can they now work together? Despite intense scrutiny, can Clive and Marina prevent World War Three? It’s an absorbing read and leads to a long and exciting climax. Just remember: it’s 2017. And the fate of the world is in their hands.”----ShotsMag


“Harriet Crawley worked in Moscow for almost twenty years and uses her experience to great effect in this grown-up novel about grown-up characters living on the edge as they make life-and-death decisions. Clive Franklin is a Foreign Office translator, summoned at the last minute to accompany the British prime minister to a meeting with the Russian president. Clive’s opposite number in Russia is an old love, Marina Volina, who left him to marry one of her fellow countrymen and whom he hasn’t seen for a decade. Their relationship is full of desire and mutual wariness. The details of their work are convincing, as is the portrayal of Marina’s simultaneous devotion to Russia and hatred of the current regime and high-level corruption. The plot is clever, the writing elegant, the characters sympathetic and the action exciting.”---Literary Review 


The Translator is a pacy, engaging political thriller. It's also a love story between two former lovers who are determined to foil a Russian plot that could potentially destroy much of Western economy. The writing flows easily off the page, with a thought-provoking plot, taut and often-humorous dialogue, and vivid descriptions of people and places. The author is a former Moscow correspondent, who skilfully takes readers from the Scottish Highlands to Moscow and London. I liked that the main characters are not spies in the traditional sense, but are a translator and interpreter, one British and one Russian, thrown into an extraordinary situation. In the current political climate, The Translator felt very real – and perhaps a little too close to home. It's filled with intrigue, loyalty, betrayal and romance. If you like your political thrillers to be plausible with plenty of heart, this is definitely a book for you.”----LoveReading


  • Author avatar
    Francois Von Hurter
  • Harriet CrawleyThe Translator