No, I mean really, it does. I kep reading a bit until I feel the bile rising and then I put it down and leave it for a day until I have the stomach to try again. Then why bother, I hear you ask, but the problem is that it is a vey good, well-written book, it's just, well, oh hell, I had better explain.
The book is Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith and everybody and their uncles have praised it up hill and down dale - but it still makes me sick. What Mr. Smith is doing so brilliantly is exactly what Alan Furst has done so brilliantly with central Europe in the late '30s early '40s. He, you may already know if you pay attention to my recommendations - er, you do, don't you? - evokes that period so vividly that you can almost smell the Gaulloises cigarettes and the ersatz coffee. Smith does the same thing with Stalinist Russia but with him you can only smell the sheer, rank fear that oozes out of everyone with their sweat. From my little knowledge of that period I suspect that he has it exactly right. The violence is casual, unthinking and driven entirely by a mix of ideology and orders. There are no exceptions - men, women, children, the sick, the lame and the halt, all are despatched frequently for merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I jest occasionally at the body count in some of the 'pulp fiction' to which I am addicted but somehow it is never real. Jack Reacher takes down six men singlehanded and it leaves you chuckling but the characters in Mr. Smith's book put a bullet in the head of a kneeling child without compunction - and that is all too real. It has taken me a week to just reach halfway. I suppose I must finish but, oh God, I'm not looking forward to it.