Review: A Killing Winter by Tom Callaghan

Monday 23 February 2015
Title: A Killing Winter
Author: Tom Callaghan
Publisher: Quercus
Publication Date: 26th February 2015
Pages: 400
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4.5/5
Purchase: Amazon
‘The Kyrgyz winter reminds us that the past is never dead, simply waiting to ambush us around the next corner’.

When Inspector Akyl Borubaev of Bishkek Murder Squad arrives at the brutal murder scene of a young woman, all evidence hints at a sadistic serial killer on the hunt for more prey.

But when the young woman’s father turns out to be a leading government minister, the pressure is on Borubaev to solve the case not only quickly but also quietly, by any means possible. Until more bodies are found…

Still in mourning after his wife’s recent death, Borubaev descends into Bishkek’s brutal underworld, a place where no-one and nothing is as it seems, where everyone is playing for the highest stakes, and where violence is the only solution.

Upon reading A Killing Winter's chilling (literally) and haunting opening I knew I had struck upon something that was vastly different from my normal crime fiction reads which are often quite 'throwaway', I read them and move on to the next. With A Killing Winter I think I will struggle to move on as fast, and think the story will remain with me for a while longer yet. It really was refreshing to read something so different, and something so original. I finished this book and immediately wanted to get into a red hot bath, all the way through this book you could almost feel the cold.

When the daughter of a leading government minister is found murdered in a sadistically brutal way, Akyl Borubaev is the inspector tasked with solving the case as quickly and quietly as possible. That's not easy as more bodies are discovered... The political game in crime fiction has never interested me, whether that be with the police themselves or actual politicians. Here though, with such a unique, original and interesting setting I got completely caught up in the game. I find it scary how characters that are high up, the people responsible for protecting the public, can often be some of the most untrustworthy and dangerous characters in a book and that was the case here. It's also worrying how it never comes as a surprise when those high up people act like that.

Tom's writing is nothing short of incredible, the fact that this is a debut novel is just astounding, and my excitement levels for book two,  A Spring Betrayal, are through the roof. It's certainly one of the best written books I have read this year (2014). At times the writing and descriptions are almost beautiful, creating a truly vivid picture in your mind until you realise those descriptions are of some of the most despicable and uncomfortable crimes that you could ever read about. In just the first chapter I got goosebumps, and it became clear that Tom was not an author that was going to hold back, shining a light on the absolute worst of society. As a reader who likes their crime fiction served that way, all I can say is I loved reading this book.

Reading a lot of crime fiction, it can often be hard to find a book which is both original and stands out from everything else out there. Certainly it's easier in this day and age, but years ago I borrowed a book from the library based solely on the cover and blurb, now I've got recommendations I'd need another lifetime to get through. Therefore I would advise you not to take my recommendation for this book and add it to a pile, but take the recommendation and pick this book up as soon as possible. Quercus have provided me with a number of 'different' crime reads this year, A Killing Winter is the latest and I am very grateful for the copy of what I thought was an incredible novel.



  1. Glad you liked this one too Shaun. Refreshingly different if a wee bit chilly...

    1. Definitely! One of those books where I wish I was better with words. Looking forward to book two!

  2. Thanks Shaun for reminding me of this book - unlike you, I do enjoy political machinations in novels, which is probably why I'm such a fan of spy fiction. The best blogs do send you off digging out or buying books you didn't intend to (I bought The Woman Who Walked Into The Sea on Saturday, thanks to your recommendation!) Right, I'm off to find A Killing Winter...x


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