Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime. But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a great good is shaken. He is forced to watch a man he knows to be innocent be brutally tortured. And then he is told to arrest his own wife.
Leo understands how the State works: Trust and check, but check particularly on those we trust. He faces a stark choice: his wife or his life. And still the killings of children continue.
©2008 Tom Rob Smith; (P)2008 W F Howes Ltd
In his debut novel Smith has painted a bleak picture of Stalin's Russia where blind faith in the State, or pretence of it, is the norm. Across the disparate parts of this story people's actions and decisions are fuelled by paranoia, desperation and vengeance. Many people abuse whatever power they have and many others live in constant fear of that abuse. The few acts motivated by love, friendship or hope are memorable for their rarity. In some ways this is a familiar picture of Russia during this era but I thought Smith did a better job than many writers in demonstrating the subtle differences in people's behaviour and exploring the reasons behind that behaviour rather than portraying everyone in as stereotypical good and evil as is often the case.
Few of the characters are likable however understandable their actions may be. But they're very credible in the context of the world Smith has depicted. The writing is breathtaking in the way it depicts scenes so vividly that you're transported to the places where action takes place and can feel the emotions of those involved. My main criticism of an otherwise terrific book is that in the last third the plot moved from credible to 'Hollywood' with the number of in-the-nick-of-time escapes and coincidences used to get to the ending.
It's an evocative portrayal of a time and place that's been demonised many times in literature and movies but rarely explored in such a thoughtful and thought-provoking way.
I found this book tough at the start to get into. Some of the content is not easy to listen to - pretty brutal conditions in Stalinist Russia. However, it became absorbing after the first hour and ultimately unputdownable. An excellent story.
"Crafted so well."
Enjoyed this novel from the first thirty minutes. Well crafted and narrated. What an obvious and wonderfully twisted end too!
"Brilliant and compelling"
If you only read one crime book this year, make it this one. Compelling, fascinating, thrilling, this is a terrifying insight into life in Communist Russia. Credible characters and a believable story make this unputdownable. I can't wait for the sequel - hurry up Tom!
"Fascinating and powerful historical thriller"
A secret policeman finds himself on the other side of the law as he battles to catch the maniacal serial killer of children that the state refuses to acknowledge. Apart from being a gripping thriller, the book poses some interesting philosophical questions and moral dilemmas as he faces up to the brutality of the omnipotent and corrupt state, and the futility of opposition. Apparently based on a true story.
"Mans Inhumanity to Man"
The book is one of the best I have purchased from audible.It portrays the life in Russia under Stalin and the fear of reprisals.
Leo's world is turned upside down from being an avid supporter of the state system he then experience's the Horrors of being an enemy of the state.
Does one have sympathy for Leo's fate or do you try to think you are suffering the same fate of many other People he has sent of to the Gulags.
The brutality and fear portrayed in the book are tools of the state to ensure obedience.
20 million people entered the gulag system under Stalin.
Man is wolf to man
"Exciting if you don't mind the violent bits"
There is a lot of implied violence and torture in this book which is nevertheless, quite exciting. It is also pretty relentlessly bleak. Nevertheless, by the end I decided I wanted to listen to the next book so it can?t have been all that bleak! The reading is first rate which really enhances the experience ? and once I got into the story I managed to rise above the gloom and I quite quickly wanted to find out what happened. If you enjoy drama and don?t mind the violent bits it?s a very good listen.
"what a world"
This is a gripping book, it has some great twists, and a really good insight into what kind of a world Stalin had created,and how the main character is human, but has to do many inhumane things. It kept me fascinated, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone who has a few long drives or long winter nights to kill. A reminder of what a world we live in, then and now, but it still leaves you with hope for humanity.
Excellent book, very well read highly recommended
Wonderful, intelligent, gripping, fascinating to learn about 1950's Russia, very original, great, great thriller, ... one of my books of the year
"Great characters, great story"
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it difficult to stop listening! On the one hand it is a crime thriller as Leo struggles to track down a child-killer, hampered by the fact that in the Communist Soviet Union crime cannot exist as it is a perfect society. On another level we follow his struggles with the ideology of the State as he begins to question the system which he has supported and worked for all his life. Very atmospheric and expertly narrated - definitely worth a listen.
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