The former Soviet state of Kyrgyzstan is the unusual backdrop for a gruesome crime spree in the first of a projected series featuring hard-edged but compassionate Inspector Akyl Borubaev.
While mourning the death of his wife, Borubaev is under intense pressure to solve a horrendous triple murder. The daughter of the ruthless Minister of State Security has been found dead, cut open and stuffed with another woman’s fetus. When subsequent, equally unthinkable murders occur, one of them on a Russian military base, a state of chaos descends on Bishkek, a Mafia-infected capital where corruption reigns supreme and seemingly every family, including Borubaev's, has a history of criminality. Considering how bleak conditions are in the country, where a large percentage of people live well below the poverty level, it's not surprising that so many of them turn to violence—and a ruthless form of heroin called krokodil that makes your skin turn green. Borubaev is not without his Dirty Harry streak, but inspired by his wife's motivational words, he maintains a certain moral code. The warmth of his devotion to her helps offset the cold, despairing tone of the book, which makes Gorky Park look like a vacation destination by comparison. Though squarely in the noir tradition, with a plot that—for all its shock value—isn't terribly original, the book establishes Callaghan as a major new voice in crime fiction with his cut-to-the-bone storytelling and descriptive brilliance. Many secrets remain to be revealed in Kyrgyzstan.
Callaghan's debut is a tough, no-frills thriller with a Central Asian setting rife with dark secrets.