Magazine article World Literature Today

The Investigator

Magazine article World Literature Today

The Investigator

Article excerpt

Margarita Khemlin. The Investigator. Trans. Melanie Moore. London. Glagoslav. 2015. 335 pages.

Jewish Ukrainian author Margarita Khemlin's final novel, The Investigator, was released in English translation just months before her untimely death last year. Khemlin's meandering detective story takes place in 1950s rural Ukraine, a place blood-soaked with successive atrocities inflicted at the direction of Joseph Stalin and the Nazis: forced collectivization; the Holodomor, "hunger-extermination" of millions of Ukrainians when the Soviets confiscated their crops; and wholesale murders of Ukrainians by their fellow countrymen who were co-opted by the German-controlled local police force. 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.

Misha is a midlevel police officer in the town of Chernigov (also Khemlin's hometown) investigating the apparent murder of Lilia V., a single woman in her mid-thirties. Lilia's murder and the later suicide of Misha's best friend turn out to be linked, and Misha shuttles back and forth between Chernigov and its neighboring villages in search of clues and a cache of gold that seems somehow connected to the murder. …

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