Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central, Apr 2008, $24.99
Following the great victory over the Nazis, war hero Leo Stepanovich Demidov becomes a member of the state security MGB that insures there is no crime for citizens to be frightened of; ironically it is the MGB that frightens citizens. In 1953, his meteoric rise continues though he knows any political enemy could do him in.
In Moscow, he is removed from a high profile case to investigate the death of a child. Outraged by the affront and feeling belittled, Leo assumes this is a waste of time even after the parents the Andreevs insist their son Arkady was murdered; making the case more embarrassing to pursue is the father of the late child works for Leo. Rejecting their claim of homicide as murder does not exist in the Soviet Union, Leo assumes suicide is accurate. He plans to end the investigation, but is side tracked when his wife Raisa is accused of being a western sympathizer, ergo an enemy of the state. Guilt by association and rumor, Leo is demoted and exiled from the city. However, he soon uncovers evidence that shakes his belief system as there is a serial killer loose who is not legally an enemy of the state and therefore not a criminal.
This is an excellent historical police procedural in which the audience will feel they fell through the rabbit hole into Stalin land. Leo is terrific as his belief in the state is right and murder cannot happen in Stalin’s Soviet Russia is frightening. When he finally accepts the facts that he could not believe until they became overwhelming, he concludes murder is not a state crime. Fans will appreciate this strong tense and original thriller.