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Accomplices aka Hotel


Film rights optioned

Following the success of her bestselling snowy road thriller, Vongozero, Yana Vagner sets her new stand-alone detective mystery drama in ice and snow, but ignites it with passion, love and hatred to a blazing extreme.

A film crew arrives to a mountain skiing resort for a film shoot. The film producer rents a secluded hotel on the mountain top a week before the shoot for a friendly getaway. On the first night of the weekly vacation the lead actress is brutally murdered: someone pierces her twice with a ski pole and pushes her over the parapet, down to the rocks, leaving to die under a commencing ice rain.

In the morning the group discovers that the cableway (the only connection with the outside world) is covered with ice and de-energized, the transmitter is crushed, no mobile signal available in the area, – and there is a dead body, frozen to a rocky mountain slope, a few meters away from a skiing path.

They are nine–eight lifetime friends and a morose, somewhat sinister, hotel manager – and one of them is obviously a murderer. Being cut off from the world, they run their own investigation. No one has an alibi, each has a confession to make, and each might want Sonya, the film’s star, dead. For years Sonya, an ingenious manipulator, a prodigious actress, ruthlessly and cynically exploited and manipulated her friends, feeding on their love and despairs.

The friends will have to discover unpleasant truths about each other, face the dark secrets of their own past, and break off the ice shell of their lifetime illusions.

The first suspicion falls on Tatiana, the script writer. Tatiana, an author of one novel heralded by critics as a “bright promising debut”, could not produce a close match to her first breakthrough novel and had to switch to writing scripts. Her bitter, austere and even aggressive personality clashes against her husband’s conforming and benign nature. The secret glue of the marriage is Tatiana’s infertility – a sad side-effect of an abortion she made in the early years of their young marriage, an operation prompted by the husband. Tatiana silently blames her husband for her failure as a mother, while Petya’s feeling of guilt keeps him loyal to their otherwise failed marriage. Petya has been hopelessly in love with Sonya, the victim, for years.

Masha, a smart journalist, has known Sonya since school, having introduced Sonya to the rest of the group. Herself a victim of a family abuse as a child, Masha today is a charity activist, providing help for sick children from all over Russia. Masha has no family, and their friendship is an ersatz of relations she subconsciously avoids.

There is Vadik, once a gifted and promising film director, now an alcoholic, wasting his talent in production of countless cheap soap-operas. For years he has been desperately trying to finance his own feature film, but without luck. For this failure he blames Sonya, a celebrity who could help through her connections, but would prefer to seek investment for less risky TV projects.

There is Ivan, an affluent businessman and the film’s producer. With his often indecent generosity Ivan continuously attempts to overcome the social gap between him and the rest of the group: for the rest he will always remain an unsophisticated provincial in an elitarian group of Moscovites. For Laura, Ivan’s young wife, this social difference is of no importance. With her looks of a fashion model and the same provincial childhood, Laura seems no more than a shallow hunter for Ivan’s fortune. However, the girl is truly in love with her husband and is painfully dependent on him, desperately – and in vain – searching for his affection. But Laura, too, has a secret, and Sonya was the only one who knew what the young wife would hide from the adored husband.

Last but not least there is Egor, a successful lawyer, who cheats on his wife Liza. A house-wife incarnate, Lisa replaced a love for her husband with a dedication to their home – a dream-house that she so beautifully and passionately manages. Lisa knows of her husband’s infidelity, this is a silent part of their marriage treaty, but what if one of the affairs, their affair with Sonya, has crossed the invisible line?

During an improvised seclusion in an ice cell next to the mutilated dead body of a friend, the group will be in turn investigators, testifiers, and even judges, but essentially will all remain accomplices. The heroes discover that their friendship – based on lies, illusions and masks they eagerly put on – is a wobbly construction that shall not endure, and Sonya’s murder has become the conviction to them all.

In this flawlessly written drama, Vagner masterly melds mystery suspense, a close character study, flaming emotions and social background. Vagner’s recognizable “avalanche prose” style works with brilliance in this complex drama, making for an intense and a true page-turning read.


Book details

Elena Shubina Publishing (AST)

Novel, 2017

542 pp

Rights sold

  • French Mirobole Editions (now available)

  • French Poche

  • Czech Omega/Dobrovsky  (now available)

  • Lithuanian Alma Littera

Film rights optioned

Literary awards

  • Nominated for the National Bestseller Award 2018

  • Longlisted for Big Book Award 2017

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