Black Earth by Andrew Meier Harper Perennial $160 Andrew Meier, who was Moscow correspondent for Time from 1996 to 2001, presents a devastating picture of contemporary life in a country where, as one resident puts it, people have 'lived like the lowest dogs for more than 80 years'. Journeying to Russia's five corners - Moscow, Chechnya, Norilsk, Sakhalin and St Petersburg - he tries to make sense of nation whose logic is inscrutable to outsiders and, sometimes, to Russians themselves. In Moscow and St Petersburg, he explores Russia's unbridled market and often lethal politics. He investigates the worst single- day massacre of civilians in Chechnya. In Norilsk, the world's northernmost city, Meier finds a grim Arctic mining town, and in Sakhalin in the east, as everywhere else, are epidemics of HIV, TB, suicide, drug abuse and alcoholism.