The Investigator is set in Soviet Ukraine in the early 1950s. With Stalin at the helm, the post-war Soviet Union is struggling to rebuild and to heal the nation of its multiple wounds. Plots and conspiracies abound and challenges to socialist values, real and imagined, proliferate.
A young woman is murdered in a typical Soviet town. In the spirit of the era everyone is a suspect. The investigator of the title sets out to solve the crime. A former intelligence officer who seeks to embody the ideals of the young Soviet Union, he introduces the reader to a polyphony of alternative voices that, together with his own, weave the unique fabric of this striking novel.
"The Investigator is one of the most complex, absurd-at-the-very-core, and bizarrely rewarding books I’ve read in ages: though I kept reading and reading, hypnotized as Tsupkoi zigged, zagged, clomped, and tromped his way around Chernigov, Oster, and the last decade or so to question and listen, it took more than half the book to realize what Khemlin was up to. I knew all along that the novel was literary fiction with elements of detective novel, soap opera, Jewish history, Ukrainian history, Soviet history, World War 2 history, and more...": Lisa Hayden, Lizok's Bookshelf
"I really, really liked this book…" Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers LitBlog
"Khemlin’s wide-ranging cast is delicately rendered by Melanie Moore, who succeeds in bringing each individual to life in English, while maintaining the authenticity of Tsupkoy’s own narrative voice, which, as she explains, has a “hefty dose of Soviet officialese.” George Butchard, Russia Beyond the Headlines
“Ultimately, this novel is far more than a whodunit: it’s a crowded, many-layered exploration of families, Jewish heritage, and the horrifying aftereffects of war.” Phoebe Taplin, Russia Beyond the Headlines
"Looking at it solely from the perspective of a crime fiction reader, the story of the investigation itself is a good one and as noted earlier, the surprising solution is kept at bay until close to the ending, as is the secret that underpins everything. At the same time, also noted earlier, this book goes well beyond the realm of a simple crime novel, and becomes a lovely yet disturbing piece of historical writing done very, very well." Nancy, the crime segments
"Khemlin’s story allows us to feel the ways in which these tragedies cast a permanent shadow on the place and reverberate in the psyche of its people.It is a sensibility that feels authentically Ukrainian, and we all are poorer for prematurely losing such a fun and gifted storyteller as Khemlin." Lori Feathers, World Literature Today
Margarita Khemlin is a Russian Jewish author, born in Chernigov, Ukraine, whose novels have been shortlisted for Russia’s foremost literary prizes – the Russian Booker Prize and the Big Book Prize. Initially, Khemlin washed dishes in a café to allow her to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Now, many manuscripts later, she is a prolific and celebrated novelist in today’s Russia. Since 2012 Khemlin has also been one of the jurors of the O’Henry Award in the USA.
The Investigator is the first winner of the GLOBEX bank grant for translation and publication in English.