A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan
When Inspector Akyl Borubaev of Bishkek Murder Squad arrives at the brutal murder scene of a young woman, all evidence hints at a sadistic serial killer on the hunt for more prey. But when the young woman’s father turns out to be a leading government minister, the pressure is on Borubaev to solve the case not only quickly but also quietly, by any means possible. Until more bodies are found…
First Impressions: I loved Inspector Borubaev’s narrative voice – sceptical, hardened, melancholic and totally believable.
Highlights: There’s a real melancholy tone to this story and I wonder if this is a feature of traditional Kyrgyz literature. That was the thing about this crime novel, it really got me thinking. I know so little about Kyrgyzstan that I spent a while reading up on the country after I finished the last chapter. The social and drug problems sound terrible and it’s interesting that most images on the internet show the idyllic Kyrgyzstan countryside yet this novel paints the cities as languishing in rather bleak post-Soviet poverty.
Usually I would become bored with regular sentimental references to a dying wife but it’s just done beautifully in this novel. Also, the regular references to the krokodil drug from Russia (feed the krokodil, get bitten by the krokodil) added to the bleakness of the setting.
If I was an editor: I really liked Borubaev’s character, particularly as he was so hardened and lacking sympathy for many of the victims of circumstance he came across. I would have liked him to be even more rogue! He knows he’s not someone who can change the world. However, I did wonder if someone who has never left the country would have such a wise perspective yet the whole story was plausible and I enjoyed it. His time AWOL from police HQ can be explained by the fact that due to the corruption cops seem to work on their own watch but I did wonder if the crime was too ‘big’ to be left for Borubaev to solve. It was said that he was the best murder inspector in the country but he just seemed quite ordinary. Luckily the brilliant story overshadowed these concerns!
Overall: A novel that greatly affected me.