One Night in Winter

Written by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Review by Cathy Kemp

In Russia of 1945, Stalin is continuing to dominate the political scene, and all Russians live with the underlying fear of arrest, interrogation and the potentially extreme consequences. No-one is immune, and the style of leadership leaves those close to Stalin in the Politburo equally vulnerable. When two teenagers, pupils of the Josef Stalin School 801, are killed on a bridge as Moscow celebrates victory over Hitler, the ensuing investigation is directed by Stalin himself. Teenagers and children of Russia’s most important leaders are arrested, held in the notorious Lubyanka prison, and their interrogators have no qualms about the use of ruthless techniques to elicit confessions in order to solve the “Children’s Case”. Secrets are uncovered and allegiance to the Communist Party questioned.

This is a partly fictional tale, based on a true story, which grabs the reader and holds their interest to the end. Some of the characters you can have empathy with and others you await their fate with trepidation, but throughout you are conscious of how sinister the Communist regime was within Russia during this period of history.