LOSING BET by Mihkail Chernyonok


Email this review


While recent imports of Soviet science fiction (often in Bouis translations) have sometimes outclassed the home-grown product, the mystery genre seems to be at a fairly rudimentary, derivative stage in the USSR: this police-procedural by one of Russia's ""most popular mystery writers,"" though sporadically intriguing, is stiff, thin, and slow. In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, a woman is found fatally injured--having fallen (or been pushed) off the balcony of her ex-husband's apartment. The detective in charge is senior investigator Anton Birukov, who remains devoid of personality throughout. The suspects include: the ex-husband; a professional criminal whose fingerprints are found at the crime-scene; an elderly acquaintance of the woman, a man suspected of bribe-taking and speculation; plus a youngish artist and a youngish plumber. And, after Birukov's men do a great deal of far-flung trailing (none of the places they visit is described in any detail), the unsurprising solution surfaces: a network of bribery, icon-forgery, and rare-book speculation, as well as some adultery and jealousy. (Says one of the culprits; ""You see, I was accustomed to earthly goods."") Except for a few USSR-life insights and one fascinating glimpse of a Saturday book-market: flat, sometimes hard-to-follow police sleuthing--most obviously influenced by Simenon, but without his powers of characterization.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1984
Publisher: Dial/Doubleday