The Distinguished Assassin – Nick Taussig
Stalin’s Russia has been the setting for a number of cracking books of late, where freezing temperatures and even colder characters come out to play…I’m thinking “Child 44″ and “Gorky Park” – even the more contemporary “Snowdrops“.
So when I received “The Distinguished Assassin” by Nick Taussig I was hoping for another Stellar Stalinesque Story – and my God doesn’t he deliver. In short, I loved it.
It’s 1952, and our hero Aleksei Klebinov has just escaped the Gulag.
A former professor and survivor of Stalingrad, he is wrongfully imprisoned and sentenced to 25 years hard labour. His tormentor and captor, Vladimir, promises to keep his wife, Natasha satisfied as he does his time.
Sent Eastwards to the Gulag hell of Kolyma, Aleksei becomes initiated into camp life, where only the strong survive. It is in the camp that the notorious criminal Kingpin Ivan Ivanovich takes him under his wing and shows him the ways of the “thief-in-law” brotherhood. By becoming part of this criminal underworld, Aleksei gets certain perks – but it means renouncing your family.
What has he got to lose?
So when Aleksei makes his first kill and escapes the camp, he is given a mission by Ivan to kill six leading Communists within a year and finally take revenge on the man who sent him down. The man who is sleeping with his wife. His arch nemesis.
Believe me, this “Distinguished Assassin” spills bucketloads (and I mean bucketloads) of blood. He has to battle his conscience and the dark memories of his past – all in the name of revenge against the State.
You can tell Nick has researched his topic well. Right from the off you are transported to the frozen wastelands, you get inside the mind of the wrongfully imprisoned. He paints a perfect picture of injustice and the nightmare of starvation and forced labour. When Aleksei gets free you can’t help but root for him and he takes his revenge.
But what really impressed me about this book was the criminal “thief-in-law” underworld – this code – which Russian gangters lived by.
Hell, what am I saying – they still live by it today! Putin is probably a great example!
The only criticisms I have of this tale are minor. For a start Nick doesn’t go into detail about how Aleksei manages to survive for a year as he goes about his missions.
How is he getting money for food and lodging? It’s silly, I know, but I wanted to know how on earth he went from escapee to assassin extraordinaire. Just how is he managing to get by?
Plus the ending (I won’t ruin it) came too fast for my liking – probably because I was enjoying it so much.
Released on 10 June 2013, this is a perfect book for Father’s Day and one I’ll definitely be recommending nearer the time on my Radio slot. This is a must for anyone who loves a fallible hero – it’s a veritable vodka-soaked voyage of blood and redemption.
The Book Boy Rating – 4.5/5
or, shall we say Я дам эту книгу 4.5/5