Viktor is an aspiring writer with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when he opens the newspaper to find his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. He and Misha have been drawn into a trap from which there appears to be no escape.
This novel is witty, dark and draws you into the life which you imagine the supposed Russian mafia are likely to lead. Kurkov is a fantastic writer and this novel is just one of his great successes. In fact, this book proves that great Russian literature continues to evolve even after a lull after the fall of Communism in 1991. Although absurd, the one character the reader empathises with turns out not to be Viktor, but Misha, the penguin who Viktor claims to love, claims to want better for, but in fact, when he becomes involved with dubious characters, his sympathy turns out to be somewhat questionable.
It is a quick and thoroughly enjoyable read and certainly not to be missed if one is particularly enthusiastic about modern Russian literature.
Death and the Penguin by Andrew Kurkov, £6.99