Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Case of the Generals Thumb by Andrey Kurkov

Author: Andrey Kurkov
ISBN # 1843430169
Publisher: Harvill Press
First Published: 1999
184 pages

A Russian General is murdered. But why? And, more importantly, what has happened to his thumb? Viktor Slutsky, a young police lieutenant, is sent to investigate it. So, independently, is Nik Tsensky, a former military interpreter. We read, in parallel, their two stories as they travel across Europe, pawns in a much more complex game than they could possibly suspect. On the way, they meet Sergey, a larger-than-life hit-man and hearse-driving sociopath, who has somehow acquired a deaf-and-dumb blonde girlfriend and a tortoise to whom he becomes devoted As the two investigators gradually close in on the secret, they become involved in a battle between the Russian and the Ukranian secret services over the fabled KGB "Red Gold". This is another brilliantly inventive black satire, which will both enlighten and entertain.

If I hadn’t read the above blurb, I wouldn’t have had the faintest clue what this novel is about, as the narrative jumped around so much I never knew whether I was coming or going. It’s so short that I felt very little time was given to the characters, so I never felt I was learning even the basics about them, and the story felt fractured and rushed. It may be that it suffered a little in the translation, but this failed to grip me at all and I often found myself being forced to re-read entire passages to try and make sense of things. It didn’t make any difference – I still felt both bored and confused – a combination I’ve never experienced so fully while reading anything else. I was singularly unimpressed by this stilted story and was thankful that I even made it to the end.

Rating: 4


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