Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice
Reader Guide: Profanity throughout the book.
Red Notice is an astonishing true story about the life and activities of Bill Browder.
The first half of the book details Browder’s humble beginnings and global rise to fame as Russia’s largest foreign investor. It is an incredible, rags-to-riches story told with much more detail than I would have preferred. Mr. Browder consistently speaks in financial figures that contain too many zeros at the end of each number for my simple brain to relate to. Admittedly, I bought the book solely for the story’s human rights aspect, which may have made the financial portion seem longer than it was. Once the harrowing tale of injustice begins, the book reads like a fiction thriller.
Initially, Browder confronts Russian corruption to protect his financial interests and those of his clients. As he comprehends the bottomless depth of exploitation and criminality that he faces and recognizes the peril his associates are in, he experiences a personal transformation from an investor to a human rights activist.
Browder prioritizes the safety of those working for him, then never cowers to corruption. Stories of courage in the face of adversity always touch my heart, and the account of Browder’s Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was very moving.
Browder dedicates the book To Sergei Magnitsky, the bravest man I’ve ever known.
Unfortunately, Browder never details the fact that Magnitsky was a devout Christian, striving to be honorable in all things. It was this significant power from within that gave Mr. Magnitsky the strength to endure torture unto death, never abandoning his convictions. Eventually, Browder pushes to have an international law named in Magnitsky’s honor, with no help from President Obama and John Kerry, both strongly opposed it.
I devoured the second half of this book. Bill Browder is a very courageous man, and I am grateful he shared his story in this book. But I am left wanting to know more about the amazing Sergei Magnitsky.
Memorable quotes from Red Notice:
“Seventy years of communism had destroyed the work ethic of an entire nation. Millions of Russians had been sent to the gulags for showing the slightest hint of personal initiative. The Soviets severely penalized independent thinkers, so the natural self-preservation reaction was to do as little as possible and hope that nobody would notice you.”
“The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep at night.”
“If I’m killed, you will know who did it. When my enemies read this book, they will know that you know.”
“There’s a famous Russian proverb about this type of behavior. One day, a poor villager happens upon a magic talking fish that is ready to grant him a single wish. Overjoyed, the villager weighs his options: “Maybe a castle? Or even better—a thousand bars of gold? Why not a ship to sail the world?” As the villager is about to make his decision, the fish interrupts him to say that there is one important caveat: whatever the villager gets, his neighbor will receive two of the same. Without skipping a beat, the villager says, “In that case, please poke one of my eyes out.”
“After Khodorkovsky was found guilty, most of Russia’s oligarchs went one by one to Putin and said, ‘Vladimir Vladimirovich, what can I do to make sure I won’t end up sitting in a cage?’ I wasn’t there, so I’m only speculating, but I imagine Putin’s response was something like this: ‘Fifty per cent.”
“For the previous few years, Putin had sat comfortably in the Kremlin, knowing that whatever happened in the US Congress, President Obama opposed the Magnitsky Act. In Putin’s totalitarian mind, this was an ironclad guarantee that it would never become law. But what Putin overlooked was that the United States was not Russia.”
“I arrived in the late afternoon at Saint Petersburg’s Pulkovo Airport. I stared out of my window as the plane taxied to the terminal and was astonished to see the burned-out carcass of an Aeroflot passenger plane lying on the side of the runway. I had no idea how it had gotten there. Apparently it was too much of a bother for the airport authorities to have it moved. Welcome to Russia.”
“The imagination is a horrible thing when it’s preoccupied with exactly how someone might try to kill you.”
Review by ML