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.