New York : Pegasus Crime, 2013
First Pegasus Books cloth editionDescription:
357 pages ; 24 cm ISBN/ISSN:
9781605984407, 160598440X, Language:
December 1930, Ukraine. Luka, a war veteran, wants a quiet life with his family. Their village is hidden from the advancing Soviet brutality--until the stranger arrives pulling a sled bearing a terrible cargo. When the villagers' fear turns deadly, they think they've saved themselves. But their anger has cursed them: a little girl has vanished. In these frozen lands, Luka has the skills to find the one who stole the child. With his sons, he sets out in pursuit. They track down a skillful hunter who uses the child as the bait in his twisted game. Battling harsh conditions, Luka must stay ahead of Soviet authorities. His toughest enemy is the man he tracks, yet his strongest bond is a promise to his family back home
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Who's excited? I'm excited! Found a new suspense/mystery/thriller author. His name's Dan Smith and all four of his published books will soon be available for checkout in our catalog: Dry Season; Dark Horizons; Red Winter; and The Child Thief (which is the subject of this review).
The setting is a remote valley, in the Ukraine, post WWII. The narrator is Luka, a darkened veteran of many Russian armies and many more bloody battles. What made him a survivor was the dream of returning to his hidden home, his enduring wife and the three children he's not seen in years.
It's hard times indeed in his small rural community. The elements are brutal and the food scarce. Firearms were banned by the new ruling class; however, Luka was able to smuggle home his beloved rifle, which is the main tool he uses to put food in the stomachs of his loved ones. Everyone in his community lives in daily fear that they will be discovered by the Stalinists and placed in forced labor camps.
While out hunting with his twin sons, Luka discovers a man, near-death, pulling a sled carrying two dead children. Common sense says why buy trouble...leave the man and the children to the wolves. But Luka is a humanitarian and brings the dying stranger into his home to heal him. When the community leaders learn that the dead-sled-children were abused, tortured, and likely used for feeding, they go on a killing frenzy themselves. Shortly thereafter, Luka's niece is kidnapped. It becomes clear to Luka that there's a stalking demon nearby and this steely soldier swears to track and rescue the child...but at what cost?
This book has a real feel to it. The narrative is strong and the characters believable. It transported me to the frozen tundra where I did not want to leave until scores were settled.
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