The Distinguished Assassin is not the type of book I would pick up, but having been told by a family member that Nick's writing is 'pretty good' I gave it a go. I have watched most of Nick's films and have always been impressed, The Distinguished Assassin turned out to be no different. Nick Taussig is now someone who I admire as a novelist, for me he is someone who really manages to tell the most riveting tales.
The Distinguished Assassin is Nick's 4th novel. The story is a Russian Crime Novel set during Stalin's reign of terror. It's 1952. Persecuted by vicious MVD agent Vladimir Primakov, betrayed by his beautiful wife and forced to the very bottom of life by the cruel system he lives under, war hero and former professor Aleksei Klebnikov is offered a mission by the notorious thief in law Ivan Bessonov: to assassinate six leading Communists, all of them very evil and nasty men.
Aleksei agrees to undertake it, this mission after which he will finally have his revenge on Primakov, who also stole his wife. But when, with just one man left to kill, Aleksei is suddenly reunited with her, he discovers all is not quite what it seems and perhaps he has an even greater enemy than Primakov, his wife and the Communist system.
This book for me was an absolute eye opener to Stalin's Russia and it explores the crime-ridden hierarchy of the Communist underworld. Nick has managed to capture the era excellently, leaving no stone unturned. At times I found the book slightly chaotic but no more than the story being portrayed. The Distinguished Assassin shows off Nick as a phenomenal writer.
The book is written in Nick's strong distinctive voice, and with a great moral sense, it is a fantastic achievement by a writer who has successfully married the fictional styles of crime and historical fiction, the novel containing pace and insight in equal measure.
The story Taussig tells, of a persecuted intellectual's revenge against Russian Communists, is not only a tense, thrilling and addictive tale of one man's fight against a wicked and corrupt regime, but also an intelligent, thoughtful and moving account of life in Soviet Russia.