A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan

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A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: A solid crime novel, A Killing Winter succeeds most with its depiction of the Kyrgyz Republic. Cold, foreboding, corrupt and forgotten, Callaghan depicts the setting wonderfully. However, unlikeable characters and explicit violence make it a read that, unlike the snow that permeates this story, takes a while to truly chill the reader.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2015
Publisher: Quercus
ISBN: 978-1848669758

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Kyrgyzstan, or the Kyrgyz Republic.

It may look like a last ditch word someone has put together in an attempt to win at Scrabble, but the Kyrgyz Republic is in fact a country located in Central Asia, surrounded on all sides by Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China.

A country traditionally consisting of Yurt dwelling nomads, Kyrgyzstan began to be ruled by Soviet Powers in 1919, until independence was decreed in 1991. Political unrest followed, and has yet to truly cease, with corruption in public office both frequent and well publicised.

Little has been written about the Kyrgyz Republic - which means that A Killing Winter really benefits from its setting, a place so corrupt, troubled and squalid that it's difficult to determine what is fact from fiction. In the capital, Bishkek, we are introduced to our lead, Akyl Borubaev - an Inspector of the Bishkek Murder squad. Investigating the murder of a young woman, it soon becomes clear that this is the work of a serial killer, and a sadistic one at that.

I won't describe the method of death, nor how the bodies are found, but some moments really are very hard to read indeed. As the investigation goes on, Akyl is drawn deeper into the corrupt society, dealing with people at all levels to find answers - from corrupt officials to drug-addicted gangsters.

His descriptions are wonderful - sickeningly so in fact. The corpses are left in fairly terrible states, and Akyl spends a good amount of time dealing with people addicted to krokodil - a drug that can cause tissue to die and flesh to rot. Needless to say, this is not a book for the faint hearted.

Akyl is not the most immediately likeable of characters. Whilst we're immediately meant to feel for him as he grieves for his wife, we soon learn that he is an extremely hard-nosed cop who is not afraid to use violence or threats in order to achieve his goals. However, as the book progresses, it becomes clear that he has little choice, and as the bodies pile up and the stakes grow ever higher, rooting for Akyl becomes very easy indeed.

This is the first novel by Tom Callaghan, and despite taking a long time to truly grip me, it is an impressive debut. Akyl is a cynical, world weary hero who it took me quite some time to like, but by the end of this book I was truly gripped, and felt very involved in the last third or so.

It's the depiction of the Kyrgyz Republic that really made this book for me though - it's written as such a dark, exotic, dangerous and delicate place, that I'm certainly hoping to read more about it.

As for the next adventure of Inspector Akyl? Despite this not being my usual cup of tea, and perhaps a little too graphic for my tastes, I'll definitely be on board.

Many thanks to Quercus for the copy.

Another book set in Soviet lands is Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Another gripping murder mystery, Child 44 grips deep and refuses to let go, and like A Killing Winter depicts a murky society incredibly well.

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Buy A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan at Amazon.com.


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