The Investigator is set in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1950s. With Stalin at the helm, the post-war Soviet Union is struggling to rebuild and to heal the nation of its multiple wounds. Plots and conspiracies abound and challenges to socialist values, real and imagined, proliferate.
A young woman is murdered in a typical Soviet town. In the spirit of the era everyone is a suspect. The investigator of the title sets out to solve the crime. A former intelligence officer who seeks to embody the ideals of the young Soviet Union, he introduces the reader to a polyphony of alternative voices that, together with his own, weave the unique fabric of this striking novel.
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Margarita Khemlin is a Russian Jewish author, born in Chernigov, Ukraine, whose novels have been shortlisted for Russia’s foremost literary prizes – the Russian Booker Prize and the Big Book Prize. Initially, Khemlin washed dishes in a café to allow her to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Now, many manuscripts later, she is a prolific and celebrated novelist in today’s Russia. Since 2012 Khemlin had also been one of the jurors of the O’Henry Award in the USA.
The Investigator is the first winner of the GLOBEX bank grant for translation and publication in English.
Endorsements and Review Quotes
“The Investigator is one of the most complex, absurd-at-the-very-core, and bizarrely rewarding books I’ve read in ages: though I kept reading and reading, hypnotized as Tsupkoi zigged, zagged, clomped, and tromped his way around Chernigov, Oster, and the last decade or so to question and listen, it took more than half the book to realize what Khemlin was up to. I knew all along that the novel was literary fiction with elements of detective novel, soap opera, Jewish history, Ukrainian history, Soviet history, World War 2 history, and more…” Lisa Hayden, Lizok’s Bookshelf
“Melanie Moore’s faintly Chandleresque translation picks up the would-be ﬂinty and dispassionate style of the eponymous investigator (doznavatel’), whose pursuit of the murder case leads him far beyond the call of duty into a murky world of favours in kind, forbidden desire, and deception. The denouement is worthy of Agatha Christie.” Dr. Muireann Maguire, BASEES Newsletter
“I really, really liked this book…” Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
“Khemlin’s wide-ranging cast is delicately rendered by Melanie Moore, who succeeds in bringing each individual to life in English, while maintaining the authenticity of Tsupkoy’s own narrative voice, which, as she explains, has a “hefty dose of Soviet officialese.” George Butchard, Russia Beyond the Headlines
“Ultimately, this novel is far more than a whodunit: it’s a crowded, many-layered exploration of families, Jewish heritage, and the horrifying aftereffects of war.” Phoebe Taplin, Russia Beyond the Headlines
“Looking at it solely from the perspective of a crime fiction reader, the story of the investigation itself is a good one and as noted earlier, the surprising solution is kept at bay until close to the ending, as is the secret that underpins everything. At the same time, also noted earlier, this book goes well beyond the realm of a simple crime novel, and becomes a lovely yet disturbing piece of historical writing done very, very well.” Nancy, the crime segments
“Definitely not your usual mystery novel! The story is multilayered and complex, and things are so slowly and casually revealed in a way that is (wonderfully) horrifying.” Roya Eve, royaevereads
“This really is an excellent and very clever story, which raises interesting social and political issues. While we are undoubtedly aware of the anti-Semitism that prevailed in the Soviet Union, particularly under Stalin, this book helps bring home what the Jewish population went through on a day-to-day basis”. John Alvey, The Modern Novel
“So who are the victims and who are the perpetrators? Conspiracies and denunciations abound, fear dominates, and truth is the first casualty.” Mandy Jenkinson, The Historical Novels Review
“The Interrogator turned out to be an outstanding read, and a really powerful and thought-provoking one. Khemlin’s writing is brillliant, her characterisation excellent and her setting vividly captured and conveyed. […] Although you could perhaps read this book on a surface level as simply a murder mystery, there’s so much more to it. I have no idea why Margarita Khemlin and her books are not better known, but they should be; The Investigator was definitely one of my top reads for #ReadIndies, and kudos to Glagoslav and Melanie Moore for bringing it to us.” Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings
“Khemlin’s story allows us to feel the ways in which these tragedies cast a permanent shadow on the place and reverberate in the psyche of its people.It is a sensibility that feels authentically Ukrainian, and we all are poorer for prematurely losing such a fun and gifted storyteller as Khemlin.” Lori Feathers, World Literature Today
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