This is very much a sequel to Death And The Penguin
, Andrey Kurkov's first novel, and if you have not already read that you would do well to do so before reading Penguin Lost.
In Death and the Penguin we meet Viktor Zolotaryov, who adopted a king penguin, Misha, at a time when Kiev Zoo could not afford to feed all its animals. Misha lived with Viktor in his one bedroom flat, initially alone. As the novel proceeds, Viktor, as warm hearted as his name suggests (in Russian, zoloto is gold) acquires some other flatmates too, but is separated from Misha.
In Penguin Lost, Viktor sets about not only recovering Misha but, having done so, returning him to his natural Antarctic habitat. The name of the novel, Penguin Lost, is derived from some posters that a small girl, Sonya, makes to stick up around Kiev. Her nanny advises that the advertised 5000 UHR reward will produce five penguins straight away, some from as far afield as Moscow. It doesn't quite work out that way, but Viktor's pursuit of Misha's trail does take him to Moscow - and on to Chechnya! As in Death and the Penguin, gangsters and local mafias are never far away, and it becomes necessary for Viktor to do business with more than one of them. As ever with Kurkov, the absurd and surreal are given an absolutely lifelike setting, with Kiev and Kievans particularly well described.
I enjoyed this novel. Written six years after Death and the Penguin, the style is more mature and, because the 1999-2000 setting was by the time of writing in the past, Kurkov is more sure of the background. Death and the Penguin involved some predictions for the future, not all of which actually came true. All in all, Penguin Lost is a good read, with some solid food for thought and reflection afterwards, but do read Death and the Penguin first.