A grisly multiple murder cuts close to the bone for a dogged maverick detective.
A group of murdered children has been dumped in plastic bags at the foot of an apple tree, high in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Inspector Akyl Borubaev, who narrates in a somber voice, catches the case. He’s been with the Murder Squad for only three months, an exile for his aggressive work against government corruption while investigating a serial killer (A Killing Winter, 2015). The grim case triggers his memories of an unhappy childhood and hardens his determination to solve this crime in spite of local indifference. Abruptly, Borubaev is summoned by Mikhail Tynaliev, the Minister of State Security, who says he has new information about the death of Borubaev’s wife, another remnant of the case that led to his exile. He’s advised to back off, but the murder of Gurminj, the orphanage director, indicates a more complex situation, and Borubaev knows what he must do. Help comes from an unexpected quarter when Saltanat, his ex-partner and ex-lover, contacts him. Much of their investigation involves digging up the bitter past they shared, but they find common ground as law enforcement pariahs. Near-constant pursuit by thugs with guns convinces them that they’re on the right track. They decide not to ferret out the perps but to taunt the killers into pursuing them.
After an effective noir opening, Callaghan’s second thriller apes the blunt men’s action novels of the 1970s and '80s. But the provocative chemistry between the hero and his scorned lover–turned-sidekick keeps that action interesting.