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The Case Of The General's Thumb [Paperback]

Andrey Kurkov
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: 7.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

4 Mar 2004

When the corpse of a distinguished general and presidential adviser is found, attached to an advertising balloon, lieutenant Viktor Slutsky is sent in to investigate. Meanwhile, KGB officer Nik Tsensky arrives in Kiev for a secret mission.

A larger-than-life hitman, bombs under furniture, a hearse, a deaf-and-dumb blonde, a tortoise and a parrot all play a part as Kurkov evokes a world of secret militia not seen before in Western fiction.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099455250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099455257
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 230,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"An ebullient black comedy... Reminiscent of the best Soviet dissident literature" (Daily Telegraph)

"Full of touches of grim insight and tactful surrealism, with just enough of the absurd to suggest a cross between John le Carre's Smiley and Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita" (John Burnside Scotland on Sunday)

"Kurkov is a fine satirist and a real, blackly comic find" (Observer)

"Kurkov flips from mock-tragedy to comedy and back again, planting the ominous and the absurd neatly among deadpan descriptions of a daily life in denial" (The Times)

"Kurkov received universal praise for his debut novel Death and the Penguin... Kurkov's latest is better" (Time Out)

Book Description

An international thriller, shot through with black satire and authentic detail, by the author of the highly acclaimed Death & the Penguin.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
I read and enjoyed Kurkov's earlier book Death and the Penguin, but his latest Ukrainian caper doesn't measure up. Set in 1997, the story follows two men sent on very separate secret missions that, of course, ultimately converge. One is lowly Kiev militiaman Viktor, who is assigned to investigate the death of a prominent retired general -- a task that would normally be undertaken at the highest levels. The other is Nik, a lowly KGB linguist reassigned from the Tajik capital Dushanbe to Kiev. Both are being directed by unseen forces.
Viktor receives frequent cell phone calls from the mysterious Georgiy, who basically runs the investigation by telling him where to go, who to talk to, and what to say. Nik is controlled by another KGB agent named Ivan who sets him up with a partner named Sakhno who clearly has some experience wreaking havoc. They are dispatched on a series of seemingly bizarre errands across Poland, Germany, and France, with lengthy periods of waiting around in safe houses. Kurkov takes a while, but eventually it becomes clear that the path both Viktor and Nik are on leads to a secret $400 billion stash that the KGB lost control of and access to in the chaos of post-Soviet restructuring. Viktor is a pawn being pushed around on behalf of an emerging Ukrainian domestic intelligence agency, while Nik is obviously working on behalf of the Russians.
The book is written in the same deadpan voice as Death and the Penguin, and has its moments, but for the most part it lacks that book's absurdist black humor. There are bits and pieces here and there, such as Nik and Sakhno's acquisition of a hearse, a turtle, and a deaf and dumb blonde, but not enough.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good 13 May 2005
Unlike Kerkov's earlier work 'Death and the Penguin', a hit with myself and many other readers, 'The Case of the General's Thumb' doesn't quite reach the heights of genius I've come to expect from the author. The dark humour is barely noticable, although the farcical elements that do appear are great and certainly memorable. The plot is twisty, but the loose characterisations of the main protagonists Viktor and Nik mean that two plotlines we as readers are supposed to see as completely seperate (until the respectable finale) merge and can be confused. The whole novel, actually, is a little confusing, with all the information being there, only hidden behind largely anonymous dialogue and bewildering, if amusing, events.
An average read from an author that we know can do better! Still, worth a rent from the library, at least - I can't garauntee I'll read my own copy again anytime.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written and engaging 12 May 2004
This superb litle story will stay with you long after you have put the book down. The writing has a bitter-sweet flavour, which makes you smile when you know you should really be crying for the characters involved. Like the author's previous story, about Misha the Penguin, both the plot and the humour help to illuminate the deep flaws of contemporary Russian society as far as ordinary people are concerned. More can be learned from the texture of novels like this than from factual accounts -- however well they relate the details. In the end it is the emotions that count as much as the documents in relating the circumstance of a country.
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