A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan – a review

This was another of the exciting freebies that I picked up at the festival last year. I have to confess that it is not my usual choice. I’m not keen on political thrillers and by the look of this, that’s exactly what it seemed to be. However I was on my way to bed, it was freezing cold and so I just grabbed the first book to hand. Well it just goes to show that preconceptions can be wrong, as I thoroughly enjoyed this.

A Killing Winter is set in Kyrgyzstan, which is centrally located in Asia and was under Russian control under 1991 (Don’t you just love Wikipedia!) The central character of the book is Inspector Akyl Borubaev of the Bishkek Murder Squad. He is called to investigate when a body of a young women is found. The victim turns out to be the daughter of a high profile politician, which makes the investigation even harder especially when more bodies turn up. Having recently lost his wife Borubaev throws himself into an investigation that covers not only murder, but mafia style gangs, prostitution, corruption, and a gruesome sounding drug that rots flesh. This story depicts a society so corrupt that you sincerely hope it is just the product of a good imagination not a depiction of how life really is.

Yet despite the grimness described above, I really enjoyed this book. It’s certainly not one for fans of a nice cozy fireside crime. The violence that runs throughout is incredibly harsh but it doesn’t come across as gratuitous. It simply added to the overall atmosphere of the story which can only be described as bleak. One of the best bits of A Killing Winter is the descriptions of the landscape. The landscape is a bleak as the storyline, with a climate that even a polar bear would find too cold.

The main character on the surface is someone who you want to feel sorry. He has obviously been devastated by his wife’s death yet he also has a violent hard nosed side that makes him hard to like. However when up against the rest of the cast he probably is the only redeeming person in it.

The twists and turns of the story kept me gripped and I would definitely recommend A Killing Winter. Sometimes you read a book that is not something you’d usually choose, for the only reason that its nearest on the shelf. This was one of those books, but I’m very glad I did.




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