Rating: 4* of five The Book Report: In the Socialist Worker's Paradise that is 1953 Russia, There Is No Crime. (Sorry, I know that all the caps are like having your lashes tweezed, but this is the Soviet Union we're talking about, and everything is A Slogan.) The proletariat is blissfully free of the Capitalist Curse Called Crime. They're more afraid of the State than they are each other. With good reason. There are traitors, informants, everywhere. Even in your own bed, you are never safe from the danger of being outed as a bad Socialist with the least, most offhand criticism of the Paradise. And death comes, whether quickly or slowly, to those whom the Cthulhu of the State Security apparatus notices. Leo Demidov, then, shouldn't have a job as a criminal investigator. In fact, he doesn't. He's a well-rewarded apparatchik who, in the course of interrogating his fellow citizens, notices a disturbing pattern of murders...which do not officially exist...taking place with no effort, or a completely inadequate effort, being made to see the forest for the trees. Leo's life changes, from privileged servant of the regime to lone wolf investigator to vengeful assassin, over the course of the story. His solution to the crimes being committed is chilling in its outlines and satisfying in its conclusion. My Review: I don't believe I've ever read so much text in italics before, and I don't think I've ever read a thriller with so little direct action before, either. The dialogue, what little there is of it, is italicized; there are few places where anyone addresses anyone else for more than a sentence or two. Husband Leo and wife Raisa have one--that's all, one--intimate conversation, which is a new low count in my thriller reading. But what a wallop this book packs! I can't imagine the agonies of researching and writing such a grisly book, given that most writers are sensitive flowers whose emotional lives are very much up on the surface of their lives. Tom Rob Smith wrote this awful book about awful people doing awful things in an awful country to amuse and entertain us. He succeeds in this, though sometimes I wanted to wash my eyes out with Clorox. The main character, Leo, is a nasty apparatchik in the State Security forces under Stalin. He's a man who has put his sense of rightness, fairness and justice into the hands of vile, unworthy leaders, and turned off his moral compass. The reasons that it turns back on, and the results of Leo's single-minded pursuit of a child murderer, are...gosh...they're *right* and yet, given the 400pp we've spent being plunged into foul, icy sewage, again and again, they're weak tea. Leo's past leads him to a future that I can't call bright, but at least he's able to do the right thing sometimes. I don't think this book is for everyone, but I think it's really, really interesting and quite exciting and well worth the attention of the non-squeamish.