This opening novel in a new series features a most unusual setting – Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, until the break-up of the Soviet Empire dominated by the Russians. It so happens I have actually been there on a journey along the Silk Road and I can vouch for the magnificent scenery, but had no experience of the dark side.
And dark it certainly is. I can usually take noir without flinching, but have to admit that this was too much for me. It is very well plotted and written, and I did want to know how it would end, so stuck with it.
Inspector Akyl Borubaev is with the murder squad in Bishkek, the capital. He has recently lost his wife to cancer and his fond memories of her are the only tender emotions present. This is a country where corruption rules and individual lives are worth nothing. No-one is sincere; nothing is what it seems.
In the depths of winter, Borubaev is called to examine the body of a young woman found near the centre of Bishkek. She has been horribly mutilated - I will spare you the details – but was blonde, beautiful and far better dressed than your average Kyrgiz girl. The body was found by a prostitute (the most common female occupation in Bishkek), who stole her designer handbag.
Borubaev's boss at the murder squad (corrupt and totally untrustworthy) puts him in charge of the case. He traces the prostitute and retrieves the handbag. The victim is identified as the daughter of the Minister of National Security, a top man of incalculable wealth and power. Borubaev is given the unenviable task of working directly under his orders, which are to deliver the murderer to him as soon as possible.
As the body count mounts, it becomes clear that a political plot of huge proportions is at the back of the murders, involving the Uzbeks and the Russians.
Recommended for those with strong stomachs.