Review: The Beria Papers, by Alan Williams

To anyone who has seen the recent film on the death of Stalin, the character of Lavrenty Beria, played by Simon Russell Beale, may now be familiar. Though the film was a comedy (of sorts), there was nothing funny about the real Beria. A sadistic murderer, he rose steadily in the ranks of the Soviet secret police, first in his native Georgia, and later promoted by Stalin to head up the nation-wide force. Imagine if Beria had recorded all his crimes, including the very personal ones against young girls, in a private diary. That is not the premise of this book, which is a fictional account of how three adventurers come up with a plan to fake Beria’s diaries to make money. A decade after The Beria Papers was published, the Hitler Diaries appeared and one is forced to wonder if the forger in that case was inspired by this one. As I have taken an interest recently in Soviet and Russian forgeries, I was interested to read this novel, and found it quite appealing, and as regards Beria, well-informed.