cover image The Case of the General’s Thumb

The Case of the General’s Thumb

Andrey Kurkov, trans. from the Russian by George Bird. Melville International Crime, $14.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-61219-060-0

Set in Kiev in 1997, this offbeat crime novel from Ukrainian author Kurkov (Death and the Penguin) blends slapstick humor and political assassination. When the body of retired general Vadim Bronitsky, missing a thumb, rises over the city dangling from a Coca Cola advertising balloon early one morning, the local police, in the person of Lt. Viktor Slutsky, and Ukrainian security, represented by Nik Tsensky, both investigate. Slutsky wonders why his superiors decided to put him on this sensitive case. Tsensky, who’s just moved to Kiev from Tajikistan, is struggling to make ends meet. That Tsensky’s department is slated for a reorganization that would divide its duties and create an analogue to the FBI complicates his task. Farcical developments overshadow the mystery solving, and things don’t all quite come together in the end. (Feb.)