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The Case of the General’s Thumb

A Novel

Translated by George Bird

Part of Melville International Crime

The corpse of a distinguished general is found attached to an advertising balloon—and minus his thumb. Police Lieutenant Viktor Slutsky is sent in to investigate. So, too, is KGB officer Nik Tsensky. They begin their investigations unbeknownst to each other, but quickly find themselves mystified about developments caused by the other.

Thus begins a comedy of very dangerous errors as the two criss-cross Europe, Russia, and the Ukraine, catalysts in a bizarre battle between the Russian and Ukrainian secret services.

What ensues is simultaneously hilarious, tragic, and suspenseful, with a fascinating cast of characters who would seem absurd if they weren’t so compelling: a larger-than-life hitman, a deaf-and-dumb blonde, and a turtle. Then there’s the gun that shoots backwards . . .

And as the two faithful investigators find themselves to be pawns in a story of post-Soviet collapse, it becomes—as usual in the work of this modern Russian master—an inspiring tale of resilience against the dark forces of the day.

ANDREY KURKOV is one of the most popular and critically acclaimed writers in Ukrainian history, and his books have been translated into 25 languages.

GEORGE BIRD is the translator of Kurkov’s Penguin Lost and Death and the Penguin.

“A sardonically amusing romp …” —John Powers, NPR’s Fresh Air

“Full of touches of grim insight and tactful surrealism, with just enough of the absurd to suggest a cross between John le Carré’s Smiley and Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.” Scotland on Sunday

“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



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