It’s 1923 and a Russian Count who has previously had a pro- and pre-Revolutionary poem attributed to him is up in front of a people’s committee. The one thing between him and the firing squad is the reputation of the poem; it’s enough to secure him a lifelong house arrest in Moscow’s Hotel Metropole instead. And that is where he spends the next 30 years, moving on Day 1 out of his suite and into a room in the attic. This novel is pure gold. Alexander is of course nothing like the idle fop the Bolsheviks think he is – there is darkness and pain in his past, but he rises above all that to make the best of his new status with old fashioned courtesy and chivalry. His former position as an aristocratic guest, accustomed to nothing but the best service, makes him one of the hotel’s best waiters; his knowledge of social etiquette means the NKVD come to consult him on how to get along with westerners when the Soviet Union is starting to put out diplomatic feelers to other countries again; and meanwhile, in good Russian style, absolutely nothing is quite what it appears. Also, the author is clearly a Chekov fan and the novel features the best use of Chekov’s pistol I have ever seen: the pistol in question finally gets used a full 30 years after we last saw and quietly forgot about it.