This Russian cult hit, first published there in the 1990s, proves that Russian sexual obsessives and serial killers aren’t much different from familiar American ones.
Ksenia is a journalist for a small-time Moscow Internet news site, going nowhere until she finds a story that boosts her career: A serial killer is targeting young women in the city, inflicting grisly sexual tortures upon his victims. A sexual masochist, Ksenia has her own dark side and is drawn deeply into the story as she sets up a popular website devoted to the case. New victims emerge as Ksenia has an affair with a co-worker and tries to make sense of her desires. Her one potential soul mate is an online chat partner identified as “alien”; their virtual affair is both psychologically and erotically charged. They fall in love and edge toward a face-to-face meeting—somewhat improbably, without Ksenia suspecting that her correspondent is the killer. Ksenia’s best friend, Olya, tries to keep her grounded, with disastrous results. Billed as a Russian Silence of the Lambs, much of Kuznetsov’s debut has a similar sinister allure, particularly in the chapters written from the killer’s perspective, in which the descriptions are brutal but somehow haunting. But the narrative is crowded with political digressions and dead-end subplots, including a long glimpse into Olya’s family life. And the inevitable confrontation between Ksenia and the killer is so quick and tidy that it feels like a major anticlimax.
Even though the plot tends to wander, the creepy atmosphere of this perverse thriller will keep you coming back.