About the Author
Nationality: Russian/Language: Russian
Alexander Gostomyslov, born in Leningrad, is a qualified journalist and a well-known name among Russias crime novel enthusiasts, who love his almost classical style. Gostomyslov founded a Sherlock Holmes club in a newspaper for children and teenagers: for every issue he writes a short, solutionless crime story, for which the readers are expected to find the perpetrator and to give reasons for their answers. This playfulness is still evident in Gostomyslovs stories, all of which concern the same main characters - the private detective Jarolslav Grei and his assistant Viktor Krylov, a constellation in which it isnt difficult to recognize the model of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Published works (in Russian):
A Map for the Treasure Hunters. Detskaja Literatura, Leningrad. 1984. 145p.
The Cabin-Boy of the "Cruising Star". St. Petersburg, Detskaja Literatura, 1994. 64p.
The Fur Coat for the First Lady. St. Petersburg, Lenizdat. 1995. 90p.
The Madman Comes on Sunday. St. Petersburg, Folio-Press. 320p.
The Night-Dragon. St. Petersburg, Anton.1997. 320p.
The Monk Without Weekends. St. Petersburg, Folio-Press. 1998. 320p.
Numerous other publications in newspapers and anthologies.
In every encounter with the likeable detectives Jaroslav Grei and Viktor Krylov, one has the feeling that one would enjoy continuing this friendship. And so it is always exciting to find a new episode, when one meets the two "old friends" in the bookstore. Alexander Gostomyslov, industrious as he is, will hopefully ensure that the gaps between the encounters arent unnecessarily long.
Sergej Michailov, Petersburger Seiten, Issue 3. February 1998.
Title on offer
Count Shuvalov's Cat
Crime Novel. St. Petersburg. Aton. 1997. 142p.
Summary of the Plot: It's a well known fact that either passion or money are the motives behind almost every crime. If one is dealing with collectors then both money and passion are on the table.
When a cat breeders club approaches the private detective Jaroslav Grai to ask for help, it is immediately clear to both he and his faithful assistant Viktor Krylov that they are dealing with genuine collectors. The president of the club, a descendent of the Count Shuvalov, has managed to rebreed the legendary noble "Blue Russian" cat, once believed to be extinct after the Russian revolution. His pride and joy, these cats are worth a fortune on the collector circuit. Apparently reason enough for some unknown thief to make off with one specimen after another. Catnapping.
After Grej and his assistent agree to take on the case, they come across a mysterious series of murders. The victims are of different social backgrounds and they can find nothing to connect them. The only thing which they have in common - is their love of cats. Unusual as the case is, Jaroslav Grai is able to find a lead and finally to reveal the identity of the thief...
Sample Text: "The cats began disappearing a year ago--Siberians, Siamese, Persians," said Shuvalov. "At first we weren't terribly concerned: you can always buy another kitten and raise it. But now prize-winning cats have begun disappearing!"
"Why do you think they're disappearing?" Grai asked.
"The competition's become stiffer. Nowadays you can make big money on cats. In the old days there were only genuine amateurs, people who raised cats just for the pleasure of it. Now it's one show after another, and the cats are awarded titles: runner-up, national champion, European champion. [...] Cats are a high-priced commodity."
"And before the Revolution," Verkhov chimed in, "cat skins were highly prized. They would go round all the villages collecting them and then use them to make coats and mittens. Then this craft was forgotten. [...] But now the trade in cats has returned. [...] I've seen people walking down Nevsky Prospect in catskin hats and coats."
"Coats made from champion cats?" Grai snickered.
"Well, that would be too expensive," said Kopeikin.
"I saw it myself: a coat made from the skins of ordinary house cats, but lined with the fur of expensive cats, Siamese cats!" Verkhov snapped at him.
Shuvalov covered his eyes.
"The poor things!"
Verkhov turned to Shuvalov.
"I'll tell you more, Alexander Nikolaevich. I've heard rumor that somewhere in the city a fabulous coat is being made from our cats, our Russian Blues. It's not a question of the cost, but the principle of the thing."
"Those cats are a national treasure. [...] And some, some--is making a coat from them. This outrage must be stopped," Kopeikin wheezed.
Shuvalov opened his eyes and dryly asked, "Will you agree to take this case, Grai? Now you know the whole story."
Grai glanced at me.
"What do you say, Viktor?"
I began thinking out loud.
"It's an unusual case. Perhaps it's the first feline detective story in recorded history. And it might prove more complicated than we suspect. I don't even know where to begin."
After showing Grai out, Bondar complained about his rheumatism and asked me to run out and buy some bread. The bakery was nearby, no more than two hundred meters away. How could a little stretch hurt me?
"Don't lock the door. I'll be back in a few minutes," I said to Bondar. I merely shut the door tight so that our guest, Elisha the cat, wouldn't traipse out after me.
When I returned I walked into the kitchen--and froze in my tracks. Bondar sat tied to a chair. His mouth was taped shut, but he was trying to tell me something with his eyes. A few seconds more and I would have been ready for a fight. I felt the air shift behind me, I stepped forward and squatted. Something rather hard--as I later found out, a length of pipe--crashed into my head like a steel bomb, and I blacked out.
I came to on the floor. Probably a minute and a half had gone by. There were two of them, stockings pulled down over their heads. [...] I began wrenching my hands free of the ropes. I rolled over in an attempt to throw off the bandit who was holding me down. He didn't try to restrain me. Through the stocking mask I saw his thin lips contract menacingly. He leaned over, picked the pipe up off the floor, and raised it to strike. I was a goner.
But right at that moment, as I was on the brink of despair, a blue streak of lightning flashed across the kitchen. It was Elisha the cat, the famous Russian Blue. He dove straight off the cupboard into the black mask, digging his four paws into the bandit's face. Hissing and howling, he bit through the man's nose, began tearing away at the mask and the face behind it.
The bandit bellowed in fright and dropped the pipe. He managed to free himself of the cat and ran screaming out of the house. At first his partner didn't understand what the matter was, but he managed to turn away from the cat and reach into his pocket--where he was undoubtedly packing a pistol. Elisha keened so uncannily that even I was frightened. He pounced on the bandit's back and began slashing at his clothing, his neck.
The second intruder squealed in pain and terror. It probably seemed to him that he was being skinned alive or scalped. He whirled around the kitchen trying to throw off the enraged animal. He somehow shook Elisha off and dashed headlong for the front door. Somewhere in the distance a car engine roared up, but soon the sound faded away.
I crawled over to the wall and propped myself up against it. Bondar sat frozen, his eyes wide open. Arching his back and shivering, Elisha passed through the house. After he had reached the door and made certain we had no other unbidden guests, [...] he climbed up on my shoulder and began licking the wound on my head.
Grai returned three hours later. After inspecting the kitchen, he asked:
"They were wearing gloves of course? Bag the pipe: it might come in handy as evidence. They weren't the guys we're looking for. The m.o. is different. Someone wants to put us on a false scent."
Excerpts translated from the Russian by Kenneth MacInnes
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