Punishment of a Hunter: A Leningrad Confidential by Yulia Yakovleva
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is “Seven” meets “1984” — i.e. an American-style work of crime fiction where an obsessive and deceptively savvy detective attempts to solve a string of bizarre murders but set under a totalitarian regime in which the powers that be are more concerned about quashing liberties that might bloom into insurrection than solving the odd murder. Yakovleva isn’t the first to do such a fish out of water crime novel, but she does a fine job of it. The mash-up does spin things around a bit vis-a-vis the genre’s usual conventions and mechanisms. In the typical American version, the police detective teeters on roguishness, but in the Soviet Union, “going rogue” has an entirely different meaning and set of consequences. I enjoyed the psychology that plays out in this story.
This book does demand attentive reading. There are quick and dirty transitions that can make the book read in a disjoint fashion, and – if you blink – you may miss something crucial to the story. That said, it’s not a murder mystery precisely, and so it’s not like one is engaged in a clue hunt. The story has a fascinating premise and I enjoyed reading it tremendously.
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