Search This Blog

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Killing Winter. Tom Callaghan. Quercus (2015)

A violent and very gripping noir crime story set in Kyrgyzstan. A women is found horribly mutilated in a public part in Bishkek and
Inspector Akyl Borubaev is assigned to lead the investigation. When the victim is identified as as the daughter of a very power politician the Inspector Akyl Borubaev finds himself under significant pressure. When another body is discovered with similar mutilations the investigation starts to move in very dangerous directions and Inspector Akyl Borubaev is left unsure who his friends and enemies really are. The plot unfolds with tremendous force as the dangerous possibilities begin to emerge and the brutally bitter and satisfying conclusion is reached.
Any writer who chooses to write a story in a non native location faces a serious problem from the outset, how to ensure that the location and context chosen are integral to the story rather than set dressing for a story that could as easily have been set in the writers native location. Tom Callaghan solves this so completely it never arises as a question for the reader, the whole context and the ferocious landscape of Kyrgyzstan is a fully developed and vital character in the story. The plot is tightly woven out of and into the context of the country, its people and their tangled history. That also solves the second problem a writer faces, how to provide enough information about the context for the story for a reader to understand the details of the context so that the story can deliver without being interrupted by information dumps. Tom Callaghan provides all the necessary details so naturally and smoothly that they work to increase and extend the flow of the story rather than slow it down.
The plot mechanics are superb, the action is brilliantly staged to reveal and to hide the true outlines of what is going on until they are dragged into daylight. The investigation is set up hampered, threatened and doggedly pursued in a very credible way as the forces at work collide with each other. The mechanics are really tightly drawn, the plot does not give way at any point to any action that is needed to rescue it from a dead end. The stunningly brutal action is always serving a point in the story and the action is driven by a tremendously well drawn cast.
Inspector Akyl Borubaev is a great leading character, he is the first among equals in a large cast all of who muscle their way into the readers attention and demand to be taken account of. Inspector Akyl Borubaev is also a superb noir character, an accomplishment that is considerably more difficult to achieve that it may appear. He is a ruined romantic, badly bruised and scarred by life and circumstances, he still has a heartbeat and a ultimately a care for others that pushes him to know and act. His small spark of light is happily surrounded by a cast of truly horrendous, utterly credible and human, selfishly dangerous and violent characters. The contrast is vital to make a noir story work, the tension between the Inspector and the rest of the cast springs from his difference to them, he is willing to care. This apparent weakness is the deep strength that he needs to drive to the bitter conclusion.
The book is also graced with an outstanding female cast member who is allowed to be female, dangerous, clever and with phrase used to describe her that is elegant, funny, precise and not in the slightest demeaning or degrading. Of all the story problems that Tim Callaghan has solved so enjoyably, this character may be the striking, she is simply allowed to be who she is just as much as Akyl Borubaev  and the story, and the reader, benefit greatly from this simple choice. A smart, great read

No comments:

Post a Comment