Russia’s game is as simple – and deadly – as beginner’s mate in chess. But will the United States be able to recognize the game before it’s too late?
In authoritarian Russia, the Kremlin is sometimes accused of ordering the assassination of political enemies. Now Western intelligence agencies have picked up signs of a more sinister plot: a Russian-ordered hit on an entire nation – the United States. What’s most frightening about this scenario is how capable Russia suddenly seems of pulling it off – in a way that the United States might not be able to see coming.
The CIA has learned that Russia is about to launch a sophisticated propaganda operation aimed at discrediting and disrupting the United States and ultimately restoring Russia to great nation status.
Intercepted intelligence suggests that the operation will hinge on a single news event in Eastern Europe, supported by a far-reaching disinformation campaign and a series of cyber-attacks.
The problem: While the U.S. has picked up scattered details of the plot, intelligence agencies have no idea what the pivotal event is, when it will occur or how exactly it will impact the United States.
What the U.S. does know is that the operation is code-named the “children’s game” – a reference to beginner’s mate in chess – and that it was conceived by a Russian
billionaire and former FSB officer named Andrei Turov. For years Turov has been developing the infrastructure for a new kind of warfare, a weaponized storytelling that exploits weaknesses in Western democracies and technologies and manipulates public opinion. While running his business from Moscow, Turov has been clandestinely selling this project to the Russian government, offering the Kremlin plausible deniability.
But the U.S. has its own secret weapon: a former intelligence officer named Christopher Niles, who understands Turov’s ambitions and capabilities. Four years earlier, while stationed in Moscow, Niles had tried to warn the U.S. intelligence community that Turov was planning such an operation. But at the time, Washington wasn’t taking Russia seriously and missed his warning. Now the U.S. needs Christopher Niles back.
Niles assembles a small team – including his journalist half-brother Jon and Anna Carpenter, a resourceful U.S senator with deep roots in the intelligence community – and sets out to unravel Turov’s deception. But just as Niles is about to travel to Russia, the event at the heart of the “children’s game” explodes into headlines – taking the U.S. and the world by surprise.
When evidence emerges linking the CIA to an attempted political assassination and related high crimes, U.S. credibility plummets. It falls on Niles’ team to decipher and disable the Russia plot – and to restore the “truth” to a world that is suddenly under the sway of Turov’s invented realities.
Niles’ mission transports readers to Washington, Greece, France and Moscow, where he at last comes face to face with the elusive Turov. But by then, Russia is clearly outplaying the United States in a chess match of disinformation and deceit. What is
the true objective of the “children’s game,” and why is it so effective? Each time Niles’ team seems to figure it out, the game changes.
THE CHILDREN’S GAME is a frighteningly realistic, fact-based thriller that delves into the secret corners of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, exploring the shifting world order and the often murky realm of U.S.-Russia relations. This character-driven novel is also a cautionary tale, a warning about what can happen when a nation’s citizens stop paying attention.
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