Foreign Exchange by Sid Stark is a scary book and one that is increasingly topical as more and more journalists are threatened, jailed, or killed. The problem is presented to us in daily headlines from all over the world. This short story is concerned with Russia, Ukraine, the US, and Chechnya. It is also a story of changing loyalties as disaffected individuals change sides but still have connections with and feel loyalty to former colleagues.
Rowena Halley is a doctoral candidate preparing for her defense and a possible tenure track position at a university. She has decided to postpone her defense a few months and visit her fiancé in Moscow. She had visited him every year for the past six years because it was easier for her to go to Russia than for Dima (Dmitry Vladimirovich Kuznetsov) to enter the US. Not only were there more hoops in the American process, but Dima also was a known activist journalist in Russia, and for him to get permissions to leave Russia would be difficult.
This is an action novel as Dima must leave his house every day and evade known but unseen surveillance. It becomes more difficult when those wishing Dima harm turn to threatening Rowena and Dima’s mother, Galina. It can be difficult to follow all the factions wanting to harm Dima. In one case a Chechnyan and a Russian form a team to threaten Dima. Forces, some from a group with which Dima used to serve, have beaten him. Neighbors are spies.
This story can be eye-opening for readers not familiar with Russia and the machinations going on in the area. There is the government with its political factions, criminal groups, NGOs, and journalist organizations. I consulted a map while reading this story.
It is also revealing about what can happen to a US passport holder traveling abroad. Does anyone still think the US State Department acts responsibly in assisting US citizens in trouble? As a person living abroad, I can state only the naïve believe this.
This short story is more scary than entertaining. I felt it deserves four Amazon stars and I will read more work by Sid Stark.