The Child Thief by Dan Smith £12.99, reviewed by Caroline Dominey
IT is December 1930, and the small settlement of Vyriv in the Ukraine is in the grip of a harsh and devastating winter.
Luka, a hardened war veteran, is out hunting with his two sons when they spot a lone figure coming towards them, pulling a heavy sled. Fearing that this might mean the approach of the dreaded Red Army, coming to requisition their homes and belongings, Luke approaches the man with trepidation, only to realise that he is close to death.
When he discovers that the sled contains the bodies of two children, his initial instinct is to try to save the man’s life and find out what has happened. But he reckons without the frenzied response of his fellow villagers and before long another child’s life is in imminent danger.
The beauty of this novel lies in its ability to convey the paranoid terror of a community under siege, beset by the harsh realities of a Soviet winter.
Into this Dan weaves an extra element of horror: A child abductor and killer who takes advantage of the chaos to strike again, and Luka, a courageous man who will stop at nothing to rescue his niece. This is a tense thriller, a real page-turner that will keep you up long after dark.