Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence may be considered the frontrunner in this year’s Booker Prize longlist, but the book I’m interested in is Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, a detective thriller about the hunt for a serial killer in Stalinist Russia. (Serial killer+Stalin+Russia=I want to read it.) It’s supposed to be based on the events dramatised in the HBO movie, Citizen X.
In this excerpt, two boys go out hunting for a cat. Their village is starving, all the pets and rats have been eaten, and the appearance of a living cat is nothing short of miraculous. They manage to catch the cat, but they get separated, and then. . .
“He was about to call out when he swallowed his words. There was a noise. He turned sharply, looking around. The woods were dense, dark. He shut his eyes, concentrating on that soundâ€”a rhythm: the crunch, crunch, crunch of snow. It was getting faster, louder. Adrenaline shot through Pavelâ€™s body. He opened his eyes. There, in the darkness, was movement: a man, running. He was holding a thick, heavy branch. His strides were wide. He was sprinting straight toward Pavel. Heâ€™d heard them kill the cat and now he was going to steal their prize. But Pavel wouldnâ€™t let him: he wouldnâ€™t let their mother starve. He wouldnâ€™t fail as his father had failed. He began kicking snow over the cat, trying to conceal it.
â€”Weâ€™re collecting . . .
Pavelâ€™s voice trailed off as the man burst through the trees, raising the branch. Only now, seeing this manâ€™s gaunt face and wild eyes, did Pavel realize that this man didnâ€™t want the cat. He wanted him.”
Fortunately my cats are not going to read it.