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The Case of the General's Thumb (Melville International Crime) Paperback – February 21, 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

About the Author

Andrey Kurkov borrowed money from friends to selfpublish his first books, which he sold himself on the sidewalks of Kiev. He has gone on to become 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.
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Product Details

  • Series: Melville International Crime
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Melville International Crime (February 21, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 161219060X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612190600
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
When looked at objectively, the plot of this book is quite serious with dispassionate murders, cold assassinations, and security service parlor games. Yet it is the tone that seemingly becomes a character unto itself. There is an overriding detached nonchalance in almost every incredible action that takes place. Though set in 1999 and mostly dealing with Ukraine and Russia, one would think the Cold War was still on with its grey drabness and the Soviet citizenry's resignation that nothing will ever change. I found all of that completely fascinating.

Where it lost marks from me was in the crisscrossing plot between Ukrainian Police Lieutenant Viktor Slutsky and Russian KGB officer Nik Tsensky. Both are being played by higher-ups and we are let in onto that fact from the start. So suspense was lacking and at times the chapter-to-chapter switch between them grew confusing and disjointed. What helped was the speed and length of the book which grew to the fairly obvious conclusion that Ukraine and Russia are symbiotically, economically, and historically entwined and that the serfs of the day continue to be pawns in the game of Czars.
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Format: Paperback
This was my first exposure to Andrey Kurkov, and my first exploration of modern Russian literature more recent than The Gulag Archipelago. [Note: although he writes in Russian, Andrey Kurkov is Ukrainian] It was interesting to see what I have been missing.

Everyone is more or less aware of the English and American crime and espionage genres (spies and crooks oft go hand in hand); they are well established and have their particular trademarks. "The Case of the General's Thumb" introduced me to a new cultural and literary milieu - and after some adjustment I have to say it was a pleasant surprise.

Some of the adjustment was cultural. Character dialog patterns were unfamiliar, and the settings unknown. It was truly foreign territory in many regards. An American reader of an American novel will understand often unspoken cues to events and cultural commonalities; I had to work sometimes to put pieces together.

The writing style and pacing of "General's Thumb" were also different than I was used to. Part of this may have been due to translation into English, but I believe it was mostly a stylistic difference, and it was simply that -- different.

Different can be good, and "General's Thumb" is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Kurkov gives us a story that is fast-paced, with enough plot intricacies to keep the reader on his/her toes. The characters may be foreign to American readers, but they live and die by the same human aspirations and failings we all do. If you want a new spin on crime novels, check this out.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is more a political thriller than a crime novel, and perhaps that's the point: In Ukraine and Russia, politics and crime are about the same thing. Human life is cheap in this book, and facts are negotiable. Further, the narrator is not always reliable. Very, very dark.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have liked all three novels that I read by A. Kurkov. The short sort of deadpan chapters and the author/translator's compact descriptions impressed me and gave me a real sense of place and climate. Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost were both full of surprises and insights into the reassemblance of the Independent Ukraine. The first two books had moments of complete hilarity, this book is more complex, and required more concentration maybe than I was able to give it. The contrasting protagonists charged with investigating the mission of General Bronitsky and the reasons for his murder-- allowed two interlaced strands of plot that really allowed the author to inform you about the world from his unique perspective. I was looking for this novel's relationship the other novels about the obituary writer--- I read all three on a Kindle and have am dismayed that I can't flip pages between the three. I recommend them all with 5 stars, really. I had to give it 4 because i know I missed something.
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