A Summer Revenge by Tom Callaghan

Review published on November 26, 2017.

This is the third novel in the author’s series featuring Akyl Borubaev of the Bishkek Murder Squad. While the previous two novels have been set squarely in Akyl’s home country of Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek is the capital), this third outing pulls him from his comfort zone. Not only is Akyl now firmly ex-police (after events that transpired in the previous book) but his old protector/nemesis, the powerful Minister of State Security, has very much made him an offer he cannot refuse. The Minister’s mistress, Natasha Sulonbekova, has disappeared, apparently run off, and Akyl must travel to Dubai to find her. Succeed and he stands to get his old job back. Refuse, or fail, and he’s likely to find himself in an early grave.

From the outset, Akyl guesses that there’s more to the Minister’s tale than a case of a foolish older man falling for a younger woman only to be embarrassed when she runs away. He wonders whether she’s stolen money from him, but thinks that even this might be not the whole truth. His task is further complicated by the fact that in Dubai he will be operating alone, with none of the official jurisdictional authority that he’s used to. Should he be arrested by the authorities or fall foul of criminal actors, then no one will come to the rescue.

A Summer Revenge is an atmospheric novel and the author clearly either knows Dubai well or has done his research. This isn’t the Dubai of the super rich and glossy holiday brochures, rather it is a seedy underbelly full of dingy strip clubs and populated by prostitutes, gangsters and hustlers. As with the previous two volumes in the series, Akyl proves to be a likeable protagonist while the other characters are all well drawn. The exception remains Saltanat Umaroza, a femme fatale Uzbek assassin, a recurring character who I still find a little too clichéd for my liking.

As with the previous two novels, the plot of A Summer Revenge is multifaceted. Akyl’s suspicions that the Minister’s concerns for his mistress’s whereabouts stretch to more than that of a lover spurned, or mere financials, are borne out. The tale that unfolds involves corruption, greed and Chechen terrorism. The author does a neat job of juggling the various plates he spins and tying up all the various loose ends. That all said, I enjoyed this outing of Akyl’s a little less than his previous adventures. This might be that the peril never seems particularly high. Yes, if Akyl fails, the Minister might have him shot, but compared to A Killing Winter (book 1) and A Spring Betrayal (book 2) where he was battling the perpetrators of ritualistic killings, international corruption and child prostitution rings, the plot of A Summer Revenge just feels a little tame.

That said, this is still a cut above many other novels in the genre and the depiction of Dubai is fresh and intriguing.

James Pierson 3/3

A Summer Revenge by Tom Callaghan
Quercus 9781786482327 hbk Aug 2017

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