A searing and gripping thriller set in Communist Russia from prize-winning novelist David Szalay.
It is 1948 and Aleksandr, a major in the MGB (the forerunner of the KGB) is sent to an isolated psychiatric clinic to investigate one of the patients there. The patient is a man long presumed dead - a now severely incapacitated veteran of the Second World War, who seems unable to remember any of his past. Twenty-four years later, Aleksandr is haunted by the case. With his Stalinist faith under threat as the Cold War recedes, he interrogates his memories and the effect the case had on himself and on those he loved most.
“A psychologically intricate, flawlessly researched tale of Stalin's legacy through the eyes of a disillusioned old communist. It felt as English as Le Carre with its elegant Cold War scene-setting and quiet but intense emotional range.”
Melissa Katsoulis, Times
“This is a double headed story that is both sad and compelling”
Nina Caplan, Timeout
“Szalay weaves a multilayered narrative ripe with period detail... A challenging thriller... Gripping”
“Impressive... Still in his mid-thirties, Szalay will surely soon be adding more prizes to his Betty Trask”
The Sunday Times
“Szalay moves skilfully across time and shows that history's end is not prophesied in books, but written in the wind”
Steven Martin, The Big Issue
“David Szalay... has created an extraordinary character, a KGB man you can imagine knowing or even being”
“This is an exciting and memorable read. Expertly researched, it feels authentic, but wears its learning reassuringly lightly. Anyone who appreciated Martin Amis's Koba the Dread and Orlando Figes's The Whisperers will love it”
Viv Groskop, Observer
Ann Northfield, Historical Novels Review