Nik Krasno’s Oligarch Series

Nik_KrasnoAbout the author:

Writing partner Carlito Sofer

Born: Kiev, USSR


LLB- Ukraine

LLB- Tel Aviv University, Israel


Publisher: Self-published

Thriller Sub-genre: Spy/Conspiracy Thriller, Historical Fiction

Future for the Series: Krasno just released the fourth book in the series entitled Escape? which was released on 9/20/20.

My review of Be First or Be Dead

The Simon Review

The privatization of industry in Russia and the Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s resulted in the rise of a number of individuals that were able to acquire tremendous wealth by taking advantage of the chaotic political and economic environment of the former Soviet bloc countries during that period. These business magnates were nicknamed ‘The Oligarchs’, because of their tremendous influence on politics and the economics of both Russia and the Ukraine. The oligarchs were ruthless in their acquisition of wealth, often aligning themselves with organized crime and gaining much of their wealth through unscrupulous means. Nik Krasno and writing partner Carlito Sofer have written a series that focuses on a fictional character of a Ukrainian oligarch.

In the beginning of the first novel, Rise of an Oligarch: The Way it is, the oligarch, Mikhail “Misha” Leonidovich Vorotavich, has been shot in the head from an assassination attempt. As Vorotavich lies in a coma in the hospital, the details of his life and his rise to status as an oligarch are presented. The novel reads more as a narrative and could also be entitled The 9 Secrets in How to Become a Highly Effective Oligarch which are:

  1. Have an IQ greater or equal to 130
  2. Have Oscar winning acting abilities
  3. Be able to follow the Ten Commandments only when it is convenient
  4. Having many friends who have sociopathic tendencies
  5. Grow up in a highly repressive regime which eventually collapses
  6. Have a tremendous desire to be extremely wealthy
  7. Know how to make government officials happy
  8. Know how to throw a party
  9. Be very, very lucky

The novel ends with Vorotavich awakening from his coma only to realize that the empire that he created is falling apart which then leads to the second novel in the series, Mortal Showdown.

Mortal Showdown, which was solely written by Nik Krasno, takes off where Rise of an Oligarch ends with Vorotavich on the hunt to find who is behind his attempted assassination and the sabotage of his empire. As he gets closer to finding the truth, the more he realizes that his problems are greater than he ever imagined. The tone of this novel is very different than the first mainly because in the first novel Vorotavich relays his life from when he was a young Jewish boy during the oppressive Soviet regime and follows him as he works his way up the oligarch ladder to be one of the richest men in the world.  With the narrative being from Vorotavich’s point of view, the tone of Rise of an Oligarch was more intense and didn’t give the reader a chance to relate as well with the other characters. In Mortal Showdown, even though the story was seen through the eyes of Vorotavich, he interacted with the other characters through dialogue which created a considerably more riveting storyline as the characters really came alive. The other big difference between the two books is that I didn’t really like Vorotavich in Rise of an Oligarch, but as I progressed through Mortal Showdown, I found that I starting liking Vorotavich to some extent, as some of his narcissistic behavior were overridden with concerns for his family, friends, and his fellow countrymen and was willing to jeopardize his life to protect them.

The series on the whole reads a lot like a Slavic Godfather/Soprano hybrid with a spy thriller twist.  Like Tony Soprano, Vorotavich is an anti-hero that struggles with his conflicting morality, but is consumed by his need for wealth, power and control. In one passage, Vorotavich is praying in the synagogue before he proceeds to commit his first murder as an oligarch. He justifies his transgression as a necessary evil in order to demonstrate his power and his demand for loyalty. With his subsequent recovery from his assassination attempt, his moral turmoil intensifies throughout Mortal Showdown, to the point that he avoids transgressions that he normally would have executed before his assassination attempt.

The strength of the series is the backdrop of historical, as well, as present day events that are occurring in the Ukraine. The conflict in the Ukraine is complex and has created a degrading relationship between Russia and the US/European Union, with the situation being highly volatile and constantly changing. Krasno and Sofer’s series gives a good view of this conflict through the eyes of Vorotavich.  If the US and Russia relationship begins to deteriorate more as a result of conflict in the Ukraine, we may be seeing more fictional novels with this type of setting.

On the down side, Vorotavich’s character is very misogynistic and from a female point of view makes it difficult to rally behind Vorotavich and his followers. With the exception of one brief appearance of a female character, Juliette, at the end of Mortal Showdown, there are no strong women characters. Though women are usually not portrayed kindly in mafia-like literature, such as The Godfather, the trend is changing. The highly acclaimed television series The Soprano’s, has a number of strong female characters, including Dr. Melfi, a psychologist, who has tremendous influence on Tony Soprano. One would think after reading the Sofer/Krasno’s series that all oligarchs are men, however, the Ukraine has one powerful oligarch that is female, Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister of Ukraine, one of the richest women in the world, and a significant figure in the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.  As the series continues, I hope to see at least one strong female character added to the series.

Yulia Tymoshenko (Wikimedia Common)

This series is great for those that like the mafia/gangster-type genre with a hint of spy thriller and black humor. It isn’t necessary to read Rise of an Oligarch before reading Mortal Showdown but I would recommend doing so, because it gives a lot of background on Misha Vorotavich and explains a lot on what motivates him.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series-Mortal Showdown-because I like Vorotavich more

Least Favorite Novel in the Series-Rise of an Oligarch-because I liked Vorotavich less

What about the science? Unfortunately, for those science in fiction thrill seekers like myself, there is not much in the way of science in this series. However, if you like political and corporate thrillers, you will enjoy this series. Nik Krasno grew up in the Ukraine when it was part of the USSR and left for Israel at the age of 17. Krasno received his law degree in the Ukraine and in Israel and now practices law in Israel. Krasno worked for a number of years with an international business group that involved various business dealings with the Ukraine, so I am sure he heard some pretty good stories on the oligarchs to help in the making of the series.

The Misha Vorotavich Technical Word in Review: Orange Revolution– was a series of non-violent protests and political rallies in the Ukraine that were spurred on by fraudulent practices during the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election. The revolution was considered a success when the Ukrainian Supreme Court issued a revote and the previous election results were overturned. The Orange Revolution got its name from protestors wearing orange ribbons and carrying orange flags. Orange was the color chosen by political candidate Viktor Yushchenko’s campaign group much like red is significant for US republicans and blue is for US democrats.

When Ukraine dodged the opportunity to sign an association agreement with Europe, I wasn’t at all surprised, but the aftermath was rather astonishing. I immediately recalled Romeo’s sinister prognosis for Ukraine in case it cold-shouldered the European Union.

Ukraine erupted almost overnight. The same as ten years ago with the Orange Revolution, huge crowds gathered at Maiden – Kiev’s central square – to protest against the snubbing of Europe in Moscow’s favour. – Mortal Showdown

Books in the Series by Order:

For the time being I am not going to list the most and least popular book of the series because the total number of ratings in Goodreads, Amazon, Library Thing, and Barnes and Noble add up to less than 100 which means statistically they don’t really have any meaning. So read the books and give a rating.

Rise_of_Oligarch#1 Rise of an Oligarch: The Way It Is- 2014

First Line:

The impact whipped the head backwards, hurling the body to the ground.


Mikhail “Misha” Leonidovich Vorotavich aka Moshe Shaarim : The oligarch

Mashenka “Masha” Vorotavich: Misha’s beautiful wife

Boris: Formally a powerful manager of an Ukrainian based company during the Soviet regime, is one of Misha’s closest business associates

Alexander “Shasha” Vorotavich: Misha’s older brother

Arthur Slotski: Former special operative of the Soviet Spetsnaz GRU and now Misha’s head of security.

Denis Filatov: Misha’s untrustworthy friend and associate

David Zabbana: One of Misha’s closest friend and business associate

John “Johnny” Wiseman: Harvard educated American that becomes one of Misha’s business associates

The Setting

Mainly in Kiev, Ukraine and Tel Aviv, Israel

When Ukrainian oligarch Mikhail Vorotavich is close to achieving his ambition of topping the Forbes rich list, an assassination attempt leaves him in a coma and his vast business empire rapidly descends into turmoil.

Laying in a hospital bed, Mikhail’s uncensored life story from a poor Jewish boy in communist USSR to disgustingly rich businessman in independent Ukraine, full of corruption, scheming, sex, drugs and violence, flashes in his mind’s eye. He has done it all: racketeering protection, drug trafficking, arms dealing, raiding privatised factories, dodgy infrastructure projects and money laundering.

Aspiring to get legit he moves to London, but behind his new pretended façade nothing really changes. And the higher Mikhail climbs the wider is the circle of enemies that want him dead.

Meanwhile, his partners, in a quest to discover who is behind the attack, stumble upon a conspiracy that, if realised, would change the world order. The mighty adversaries will stop at nothing.

Conspiracies, old scores, powerful enemies and the blurred lines between decency and corruption all surface.

Packed with remarkable characters and exotic scenes, humorous and philosophical at times, Rise of an Oligarch is a thriller set against the background of a young Ukrainian state striving to embrace capitalist democracy.

Rise of an Oligarch is the book that oligarchs do not want you to read.

Looking for a review of Rise of an Oligarch: The Way It Is?  Check out:

Ana Reviews It All

Whispering Stories

The Help Desk

Amazon Rating: 4.10 out of 5 stars based on 24 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.40 out of 5 stars based on 62 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 rating

Total Score 4.31 (updated 10/26/20)



Mortal_Showdown#2-Mortal Showdown- 2015

First Line:

I took a long draw on the Cuban cigar, while my gaze swept the Caribbean Sea, so perfectly calm at night and shimmering in the moonlight.


Mikhail “Misha” Leonidovich Vorotavich aka Moshe Shaarim, Mashenka “Masha” Vorotavich, Boris, Alexander “Shasha” Vorotavich, Arthur Slotski, Denis Filatov, David Zabbana, and John “Johnny” Wiseman

The Setting

Mainly in Kiev, Ukraine and Tel Aviv, Israel plus many other places

Mortal Showdown is an action packed thriller sending the reader on a kaleidoscopic race through violence, sex, scamming and anti-scamming, political upheaval and murder.

Michael (Misha) – a Ukrainian oligarch who was rapidly climbing the Forbes rich list, wakes from a coma caused by an assassination attempt and realizes that he’s in the thick of a multilayered attack on him and his business empire. Making things even worse – among his numerous adversaries is one of Russia’s most influential strongmen. From rich and powerful, Michael very quickly becomes a fugitive, struggling for survival. Counting on his wits and a handful of loyal associates, he searches for a way to even the score with each of his adversaries and to save his country from the Russian bear’s grasp.

In order to have the slightest chance in a face-off with his prime nemesis, Michael needs to attack head on, undertaking the greatest risk of his entire life. Unfortunately, the dangerous mission goes wrong from the very beginning…

Looking for a review of Mortal Showdown?  Check out:

Outset- Rakhi Jayashankar’s Blog


Amazon Rating: 4.20 out of 5 stars based on 29 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.07 out of 5 stars based on 41 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 2.50 out of 5 stars based on 2 rating

Total Score 3.84  (updated 10/26/20)


Be First or Be Dead#3-Be First or Be Dead- 2016

My review of Be First or Be Dead

First Line:

The brief mix of a dream with the reality was confusing.


Mikhail “Misha” Leonidovich Vorotavich aka Moshe Shaarim, Mashenka “Masha” Vorotavich, Boris, Arthur Slotski, Denis Filatov, and David Zabbana

The Setting

Island of Ibiza, and Ukraine

Michael, the Oligarch, has dealt with most of his enemies in his own harsh way, and with the help of an unexpected and mysterious ally, fulfilled his long-coveted ambition of topping Forbes billionaires list. Rich, still young and victorious, Michael knows how to indulge in all the pleasures this world can offer.

However, those who have helped him have their own plans, where Michael’s and his country’s role is very different from his expectations. Soon enough, he finds out that those who really dominate the global economy rule illicitly and stay away from public eye. He needs to confront the ancient cabal in order to survive and to save his country…

Be prepared for a transgressive, radical, uncompromising, grotesque, action-packed and philosophical read.

Not for weak hearts and tender souls!

Looking for a review of Be First or Be Dead?  Check out:


Amazon Rating: 4.16 out of 5 stars based on 15 ratings

Rakuten Kobo: not rated

GoodReads Rating: 4.17 out of 5 stars based on 23 ratings

Library Thing Rating: not rated

Total Score 4.17 (Updated 10/26/20)

#4-Escape?- 2020

Mikhail, one of the richest oligarchs on the planet, is kidnapped and held hostage in an unknown location. Captors’ demands are something he’s unable to meet. When the choice is between dying tortured or risking life to escape, there is no real choice. His people would spare no effort to release him, but they are clueless as to his whereabouts and need to investigate who’s behind his sudden disappearance. Mikhail’s desperate attempt to run away and his associates’ endeavors to locate and free him lead to a climax that explodes in a series of breakneck shootouts and pursuits. Yet, the biggest challenge of them all may require overcoming one’s own nature.

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