Moscow 1945. While shots ring out as Stalin and his courtiers celebrate victory over Hitler, on a nearby bridge a teenage boy and girl lie dead. These are no ordinary teenagers, but the children of Russia’s most important leaders who attend one of Moscow’s most exclusive schools. Is it murder? A suicide pact? Or a conspiracy against the state? An investigation ensues, directed by Stalin himself, as children are arrested and forced to testify against their friends and their parents.
This terrifying witch-hunt soon unveils illicit love affairs and family secrets in a hidden world where the smallest mistakes are punished with death. One Night In Winter is an addictive read, based on a true story and featuring real life characters. One only needs to turn to Montefiore’s previous works, the worldwide bestsellers Jerusalem and Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar to grasp his understanding of the USSR during Stalin’s time, knowledge he masterfully weaves into this novel.
A Letter from the Author
Hello, I am sending you my new novel ONE NIGHT IN WINTER which I hope you enjoy. It is partly a thriller that opens with a killing but above all it’s about the universal agonies of love – the clash between love of family, married love, adulterous love. It’s set in the sinister world of Stalin’s Moscow 1945 where a single word may be punished by death and the plot is based on amazing true stories that I discovered when I was researching my books on Stalin…
It starts with the shooting of two schoolchildren who attend the most elite school in Russia and whose parents are Soviet leaders. Is it a suicide pact, murder or conspiracy? Stalin orders the arrest of about twenty children at their elite school to solve the crime but ultimately to apply pressure to their parents: imagine if your children were arrested by the secret-police, what would they reveal about YOU?
The children, aged from seven to eighteen, face fearsome dilemmas – how to save themselves without destroying their own parents? But this witch-hunt exposes secret illicit love affairs that could destroy not only marriages but the very lives of entire families…. The characters learn it is not who you love, but who loves you.
I uncovered the story of the Children’s Case – how two elite children died in a shooting on the bridge beside the Kremlin during WW2 – and always planned to base a novel on it. I interviewed three of these children who spent 6 months in jail. They told me what it was like to be interrogated by the secret-police and stolen away from their parents. The love story is partly based on a British diplomat who was Churchill’s interpreter at his meetings with Stalin. If the lead characters are all invented, the historical details are totally accurate as is the brooding character of Stalin himself who casts his dark shadow over the innocent children of School 801…
I’d love to tell you about it in person.
Simon Sebag Montefiore