Leonid Yuzefovich grew up in Perm, in the Ural Mountains. He is a historian with twin interests in Old Russian diplomacy and Mongolia, the country where he spent three years in the Soviet army.
Autocrat of the Desert is Yuzefovich’s biography of Baron Ungern-Shternberg, a Russian adventurer and anti-Bolshevik who set himself up as a warlord in Mongolia during the Russian Civil War. Yuzefovich has published many stories, essays, novels, and historical monographs, and won several prizes, including 2001 National Bestseller prize for Prince of the Wind, another installment in the Putilin trilogy, and Russia’s 2009 Big Book Award for his contemporary novel Cranes and Pygmies.
Since 2000s, Yuzefovich works on television, writing screenplays for historical serials and works on film adaptation of his novels.
The year is 1871. Prince von Ahrensburg, Austria’s military attaché to St. Petersburg, has been killed in his own bed. The murder threatens diplomatic consequences for Russia so dire that they could alter the course of history. Leading the investigation into the high-ranking diplomat’s death is Chief Inspector Ivan Putilin, but the Tsar has also called in the notorious Third Department – the much-feared secret police – on the suspicion that the murder is politically motivated. As the clues accumulate, the list of suspects grows longer; there are even rumors of a werewolf at large in the capital. Suspicion falls on the diplomat’s lover and her cuckolded husband, as well as Russian, Polish and Italian revolutionaries, not to mention Turkish spies. True to his maxim that “coincidence and passion are the real conspirators,” Putilin seeks answers inside the diplomatic circus as well, which leads him to struggles with criminals and with the secret police itself. When the mystery is solved, the only person who saw it coming was Putilin.
Harlequin’s Costume is the first volume in a series whose main character is based on the real-life Ivan Putilin, the Tsar’s Chief of Police in St. Petersburg from 1866 to 1892. The entire trilogy, Chief Inspector Putilin, appeared as a mini-series on Russian television in 2007. Brilliantly translated by Marian Schwartz, Harlequin’s Costume is now for the first time being published in English.
“Russian history is […] tragic. But it’s a noble tragedy, despite all the archives of human infamy that Russian life is layered with.” – Leonid Yuzefovich.
- National Bestseller Prize, 2001
- Big Book Award, 2009
Media about Leonid Yuzefovich
“On the other hand, Yuzefovich crafted a peculiar image of a detective, and his is a more complex narration where the now retired Putilin shares his memories with a ghost writer Safronov, who in turn ‘improves’ the story with his own wheezes. Sieving through the text and separating the truth from the literature in it is the real pleasure derived from Yuzefovich’s work.” Leo Danilkin, Afisha.ru
“As a literary genre, suspense is a strictly logical intellectual puzzle, at the same time equipped with a wide variety of tools to describe an indelible everyday absurdity, the study of which became one of the main tasks – and certainly successfully fulfilled – of the Putilin series’ first novel.” Elena Ivanitskaya, Druzhba Narodov.
“Leonid Yuzefovich creates prose like it’s a Chinese box. Open one – find yet one more, smaller; in it – yet another one; and in it yet one more…” Marina Abasheva, Novy Mir.
“Creator of detective Ivan Putilin, winner of National Bestseller Prize, author of Kazaroza and Horsemen in the Sand, Yuzefovich is a clever author who feels the time very well, despite of his literary trademark being historical detectives.” Peoples.ru
“Yuzefovich writes with subtle irony, detailed historical knowledge and a great feeling for language – a literary phenomenon!” Knizhnoe Obozrenie
- History & Current Affairs
- Film & Television
- Russian Literature