cover image Punishment of a Hunter: A Leningrad Confidential

Punishment of a Hunter: A Leningrad Confidential

Yulia Yakovleva, trans. from the Russian by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. Pushkin Vertigo, $15.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-78227-679-1

Set in the Soviet Union during the 1930s, Russian author Yakovleva’s outstanding U.S. debut, a series launch, captures the tense paranoid atmosphere of the period. Investigator Vasily Zaitsev, of the Leningrad Criminal Investigation Department, looks into the murder of bookkeeper Faina Baranova, who was found strangled in her room. Baranova’s killer posed the corpse on an armchair, with a white rose in one hand and a feather duster in the other, and had brought red silk curtains into the apartment to display behind the body. Before Zaitsev can advance in his inquiries, he falls afoul of the OGPU, the secret police unit responsible for punishing “crimes against Soviet ideology,” who believe the investigator has a suspect lineage. Fortunately, his terrifying captivity is cut short when he’s needed to help with a multiple murder, whose victims include a Black American Communist and three Russian women, all posed as if for a portrait. Yakovleva perfectly balances evoking the terror of living in a police state with her whodunit plotline. Fans of Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko will hope to see much more of Zaitsev. (Oct.)