Harlequin's Costume (Putilin Trilogy) Paperback – 15 Mar 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
It all seemed very much like a cliché of how you'd expect the Russian police to behave, but having said that, it was both funny and believable. This brilliant sentence on page 178: "With this kind of evidence we can prove anything we like."
While it was fun, I did have problems keeping the characters apart. Not because of their Russian names, that wasn't so hard, but because they weren't very well developed and there were rather many of them. I often lost track who was who and this also influenced my understanding of the story at times.
On the other hand, I could very clearly picture the events in the story and it was not hard to imagine that this would make a brilliant tv series.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Yusefovich describes himself as a "serious historian", and I thought this came out very strongly in this mystery, which had an extra dimension that really enhanced the otherwise familiar `whodunit' storyline. For me, this is what was really interesting: I'm not usually a fan of this genre, but the little details the author includes relating to the Russian pre-Revolutionary period were fascinating. The dialogue was also quite funny, and Yusefovich (and the translator) really use this well to convey different characters - you can almost imagine their voices in the room with you at times! A fast paced and thrilling read that keeps you guessing right up to the end.
Chief Inspector Ivan Putilin is brought to the scene on the Street of Millions to investigate. The Tzar's secret police, called Third Department, are at the scene because of the international diplomatic implications. Putilin is an interesting character with anxiety-related stomach problems, a lovingly domineering wife, and a mean streak in his relationship with subordinates. He is realistically fearful of the Third Department leaders who want a non-Russian scapegoat to take the blame for the murders. Putilin a man ruled by his emotions, is not convinced of the guilt of suspects who "confess" to the crime, and he looks for a single thread that will lead to the real perpetrator. Then, like a harlequin's costume of rags sewn together with a single thread, he can unravel the convoluted political and criminal garment revealing the naked truth.
The novel requires some additional effort by the reader to understand the complicated political situation in Europe in the late 1800s. This is not an Agatha Christie style mystery that provides all the relevant historical context. The reader should do some outside research on the period to help understand Yuzefovich's historical allusions. This understanding is made more difficult by Marian Schwartz's translation that is a somewhat disjointed, literal interpretation of Yuzefovich's prose. Harlequin's Costume is the first book of a trilogy featuring Inspector Putilin who, near the end of his life, is recounting his most interesting cases to a writer for publication. I enjoyed reading the novel and will read the subsequent 2 volumes for more of Chief Inspector Ivan Putilin's police stories.