An Autumn Hunting
Date Published23 August 2018
Price£ 20.99

An Autumn Hunting

by Tom Callaghan

Akyl Borubaev is back in the Bishkek murder squad but shooting the Minister for State Security makes him a pariah, and someone of interest to Kyrgyzstan’s top criminals.


This is the fourth outing for Akyl Borubaev, as usual telling in the first person a story of human greed and depravity. Minister Tynaliev is once again using Borubaev for his own special purposes using threats as an incentive, but it comes as a surprise when Borubaev shoots him in the back, something which will forever make him a target of state security forces.
Conversely, however, it suggests he may be useful to the Circle of Brothers, the country’s top criminal gang, especially its head Aliyev, who is short of men with a bit of brain as well as brawn. Aliyev recruits Borubaev and dispatches him to Bangkok, to negotiate terms for the supply and distribution of narcotics with a Thai criminal organisation headed by the poker-faced Quang.
In his association with Aliev and Quang, Borubaev is acutely conscious that if either find him less than useful and trustworthy they will have no compunction in terminating him immediately, and have the means to do so. Quang has in his employ a kathoey or ladyboy who is trained in Muay Thai, the traditional martial art, and with a foreigner like Borubaev a mutual antipathy is evident.
Luckily Borubaev has in his corner Saltanat Umarova, the beautiful Usbek who has come to his rescue in previous escapades, also offering brief sexual favours but no hope of a permanent relationship. Umarova shows up in Bangkok bearing disturbing personal news, but demonstrates that she has, as ever, been keeping a close eye on her occasional boyfriend and will be available to bail him out at the first sign of trouble.
One passage where Borubaev complains of the smell of ‘cheap nicotine’ on the breath of a companion gives me the opportunity to voice a small but frequent grouse. Nicotine is colourless, odourless and a powerful poison, but the brown stains and pungent smells associated with smokers arise from tar – attribution to nicotine is entirely misplaced.

I began this series sickened by the bleak vision conjured up by Tom Callaghan, where casual brutality and cold self-interest was matched only by the chill of the snows on Borubaev’s home in the Tien Shan mountain. The appearance of a fourth book suggests that the protagonist has secured at least some fans: there is something about his determination as well as his many weaknesses which make him appealing, a man always wading upstream in leaky boots against a current of corruption.

Reviewed 13 April 2019 by Chris Roberts