Alexander Terekhov - The Rat Killer (4 stars)

The Rat-Killer

(Alma Books)


Alexander Terekhov wrote this political allegory when he was 27. Bad timing meant it failed to make waves outside Russia, as critics were busy unearthing older, established writers suppressed under the communist regime. This new edition ten years on, updated by the author, unleashes his intelligent, absurd novel on the West. Svetloyar is a new-build Stalinist town, full of people who’d ‘sell their own mother for a little vodka’. They want to pass Svetloyar off as a dazzling historical show-town on Russia’s tourist trail, but are plagued by a serious rat infestation.

Two pest-killers are brought from Moscow; one world-wearied, the other with an eye for the ladies, and their extermination efforts kick off a pacy, chaotic plot of greed and corruption. Both the rats and humans seem scruple-free, but Terekhov’s black humour, irreverence and insight draws some twisted sense from it all. Original and stylish, he deserves to stand out this second time around.


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