Punishment of a Hunter

Written by Yulia Yakovleva. Translated from Russian by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. Published on 28 October 2021 by Pushkin Vertigo.

1930s Leningrad. As a mood of fear cloaks the city, Investigator Vasily Zaitsev is called on to investigate a series of bizarre and seemingly motiveless murders. In each case, the victim is curiously dressed and posed in extravagantly arranged settings.

At the same time, one by one precious old master paintings are going missing from the Hermitage collection.

As Zaitsev sets about his investigations, he meets with suspicion at practically every turn, and potential witnesses are reluctant to provide information. Soon Zaitsev himself comes under suspicion from the Soviet secret police. The embittered detective must battle increasingly complex political machinations in his dogged quest to uncover the truth.


The best new crime fiction for October 2021 ~ The Times

‘Yulia Yakovleva’s thrilling debut was a bestseller in her native Russia. It’s not difficult to see why: her eye for detail, clear-eyed view of history and sardonic humour paint a picture of a pinched and paranoid state in which “one minute you’re fine, the next you’re a goner”. Zaitsev’s colleagues are an odd bunch who spend their days “collecting clues, evidence, strange cases, seemingly unrelated facts, motley detritus, unremarkable and insignificant information, trivia [and] minutiae”. What they discover — partly based on real-life events — is astonishing.’

~ Mark Sanderson, The Times

‘A fascinating story that fully earns the small shoal of red herrings Yakovleva sends our way; equally impressive is her vivid depiction of 1930s Leningrad as Stalin’s purges begin to take effect and the city’s citizens realise that some comrades are considerably more equal than others. Beautifully translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and billed as the first in a “Leningrad Confidential” series of detective novels, Punishment of a Hunter establishes Yulia Yakovleva as a talent to watch.’

~ Martin Doyle, The Irish Times