Monday, 9 February 2015

A Killing Winter

This is a great book. Well written, pacy plot, good use of location and a protagonist who kept me interested.

Inspector Akyl Borubaev of the Bishbek Murder Squad (Bishbek being the capital of Kyrgyzstan) is called to the scene of a brutal murder, only to find that the dead woman is the daughter of one of the most powerful people in the country. He further discovers that the woman has been gutted and a foetus placed inside her.

As well as kicking off the plot, this sets the tone for the rest of the book. This is no cosy whodunit, but pure gritty noir territory. If you like your crime fiction brutal and unforgiving then this might be the novel for you. The story contains political conspiracy; quite shocking violence in parts and the author doesn’t spare us any of the bloody details.

The author clearly knows the region well and successfully brings Kyrgyzstan to life. The protagonist is a part of that world and a product of it, so is not above a bit of police brutality. This isn’t a world of due process. But Inspector Borubaev is more than a mere thug and has an ethical code, a line he won’t cross.

All of the main characters are well rounded; none are cardboard cut-outs, with the possible exception of the femme fatale. An Uzbek intelligence officer, she is the one character whom I felt was a little bit clich├ęd. Why is it in spy thrillers there is always a stunningly beautiful KGB agent? OK, this isn’t strictly a spy thriller and she is Uzbek intelligence rather than Russian, but the super-sexy deadly spy just didn’t work for me.

Having said that, this is a minor quibble in an otherwise flawless debut.  Many novels, even those written by experienced writers, sag in the middle. A Killing Winter didn’t and I found myself gripped throughout. The author, Tom Callaghan, has a sequel on the way and I will definitely be reading it.

I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

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