Book Review: Harlequin’s Costume by Leonid Yuzefovich
April 9, 2013 5 Comments
Glagoslav Publications contacted me asking me if I wanted to review one of their books on my blog. I hadn’t heard of them, but I found out that they are an British-Dutch publishers that translate Russian, Ukranian and Belarussian books into English.
Harlequin’s Costume sounded like a really fun book about a Russian police detective investigating a murder in 1871. It reminded me of another book that takes place in the same time period in Russia, with a different detective: The Gentle Axe by R. N. Morris.
This book is the first in a series about a real-life detective and was made into a mini-series for Russian television. After reading the book, I’d love to watch that series on tv!
Harlequin’s Costume: What it is about
What the publishers say: “The year is 1871. Prince von Ahrensburg, Austria’s military attaché to St. Petersburg, has been killed in his own bed. The murder threatens diplomatic consequences for Russia so dire that they could alter the course of history. Leading the investigation into the high-ranking diplomat’s death is Chief Inspector Ivan Putilin, but the Tsar has also called in the notorious Third Department – the much-feared secret police – on the suspicion that the murder is politically motivated.
As the clues accumulate, the list of suspects grows longer; there are even rumors of a werewolf at large in the capital. Suspicion falls on the diplomat’s lover and her cuckolded husband, as well as Russian, Polish and Italian revolutionaries, not to mention Turkish spies. True to his maxim that “coincidence and passion are the real conspirators,” Putilin seeks answers inside the diplomatic circus as well, which leads him to struggles with criminals and with the secret police itself. When the mystery is solved, the only person who saw it coming was Putilin.“
Harlequin’s Costume: What I thought
This was a very entertaining story, that indeed brought back the fantastic atmosphere of Russia in the late 1800s that I had found previously in The Gentle Axe by R. N. Morris. It’s amusing throughout. Especially fun is when they force someone to volunteer to be the murderer. You see, it doesn’t actually matter who did it, just that they arrest someone. Interestingly, later on, more and more people are suspected of the crime.
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.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Number of pages: 266
First published: 2001 (Russia, 2013 UK)
I got this: from the publishers, Glagoslav Publications
Genre: historical thriller