MGB officer Leo is a man who never questions the Party Line. He arrests whomever he is told to arrest. He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy because he is told to, because he believes the Party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia.
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.
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©2008 Tom Rob Smith; (P)2008 W F Howes Ltd
This book was superb. All too often today Russia is criticized without mercy. However the atrocities that occurred in Russia some 25 years ago should not be overlooked. Although slow to start, it's well worth the wait. A great insight truly.
"Excellent, evocative book"
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.
"It just didn't engage me"
The story felt like it relied on a lot of old soviet cliches, the crime story took 7 hours to get going and was a bit fanciful.
I doubt it.
He didn't add or subtract from the story.
it was very long for a thin story line. A few decent twists but nothing particularly interesting or not telegraphed.
I finished the book but only pushed on to finish it so I could get back to the Harry Bosch series
"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
"Brilliant . I have always by Russian history after the ar"
Along with the wonderful narration of Steven pacey I thought
The author accomplished with great success the hard ship
And terror of living in Stalins Russia . Living in a world
When the state is everything And nobody can be trusted.
A very unusual mystery come love story takes place. I listened
To the book in 2 goes very unusual for me
I would love to see more books like this from the author
Human survival and love against all the odds...
"Evocative if Slightly Preposterous"
I haven't read the print version so its difficult to comment, what I would say is that I enjoyed it. In audio terms it was a page turner and in contrast to 'weightier' books I came away feeling as though I'd actually 'read' it, there was a keener sense of participation.
It was unique from my perspective anyway (I'm sure there are comparable stories) in it's combining of historical setting, which was evocative, and serial killer story line which was faintly cheesy and not up to Hannibal Lecter/Tom Ripley standards but then it was more traditional in its outlook.
Leo was my favourite because he is the most present I suppose, all the action is channeled through him.
No but I did feel slightly chilly some mornings when I was listening to it while trudging to work.
It was pretty good. The idea for the setting was strong but the story line itself was maybe a bit silly, I wasn't that scared of bumping into the killer. The character forming stuff was a bit a bit clunky; character A is like this because of *insert traumatic childhood event. Also I'm not sure about the need for the reader to put on the Russian accent when the characters are speaking, its vaguely meerket-esque but that in itself is a really difficult decision for the director who wants the listener to identify the characters as Russian which they are, but they're clearly not speaking Russian, they're speaking English because the book is written in English.
"Dark crimes in darkest Stalinist Russia. Absorbing"
Right near the top. Dark times in Orwellian Russia that delivered desperate situations by the bucket load that tested your nerves as the characters used every conceivable act to survive. Fabulous
The scene on the prisoner train and the conclusion....
No. I never do. A break in proceedings adds to the tension and enjoyment.
If the film is half as good as the audio book, you won't be disappointed. Also, the Narrator was superb. His vocalisation of the Russian accent brought the characters - of all ages and gender - even more to life.
"Bleak but gripping"
The opening scene is a shocker that brings home some of the hardest times endured by human kind. Don't worry we move on to more tolerable times though it never gets as far as an easy life for our hero.
Strong plot and great sense of place and time very satisfyingly all brought together.
it is essentially a defective story set in the soviet era I think I will need to read something a bit lighter to follow but I am very glad I read it.
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.
"One of those books that is close to perfect"
One of the best books I have come across in a while. A brilliant mix of history and fiction. It start with a bleak and disturbing view of Stalin’s Russia and some of the vile means they controlled the people. Then as the book moves on you find yourself drawn in to a very powerful crime drama with huge characters and brilliant plot. Without wanting to reveal anything about the story the way the narrative keeps reverting back to previous sections is totally enthralling.
As other people have mentioned some of the story line is hard to hear and it made me angry that people can be so cruel and callous to others but it is presented in a historic rather than sensational way.
If I had a criticism it would be that the end fails to live up to the rest of the book but in fairness this is partly because I did not want there to be an end and I wanted to stay in the narrative.
Excellent book wonderfully read. Thank you.
"1st audio book"
I thought it was very good all round.
the narrator is excellent,
the story is original and engaging.
I recommend it.
"what a great book"
This is a refreshing change from the masses of awfully written boring thrillers available these days. Really interesting, well-thought out dimensional characters and a gripping storyline. I had to stop myself from reading it all in a few days.
Brilliant... Can't recommend it highly enough.
Great story in an unbeatable setting fantastically drawn characters, action scenes that'll have you on the edge of your seat and mystery that'll keep you hooked.
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