Andriy Kokotiukha: Адвокат iз Личакiвської (The Lawyer from Lychakiv Street)
Our hero is Klymentiy Nazarovych Koshovy, known as Klym. He is a lawyer but not the eponymous Lawyer from Lychakiv Street. Klym comes from a prosperous family in Kyiv. However, it is 1908, Kyiv is part of the Russian Empire and young people everywhere are conspiring against the Empire. the Empire, however, is striking back. Klym had belonged to an anti-government group. However, he is arrested, thrown into a Tsarist jail and knocked around. A blow to the head leaves him with a permanent tic in his eye, which we will see numerous times in this book. His father, however, has influence and he is released after three weeks but he decides it is in his best interest to leave the country, which he does.
His destination is the town now called Lviv. It is now part of Ukraine but then it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and called Lemberg, with the majority of the inhabitants being Polish speakers. It had a large Jewish population. As we eventually discover he is going to visit Genyk Soyka, who is the eponymous Lawyer from Lychakiv Street.
We come across Genyk (as everyone calls him) twice before our hero arrives. He seems to be protecting a mysterious package in his rooms and is guarded by a bodyguard, whom he does not take to. Eventually he sends him away. When Klym arrives at Lviv station, he engages a horse and carriage to take him to Lychakiv Street. The driver tells him how he hates the new electric trams as they take away business from the cabs and also frighten the horses. Indeed, one of his colleagues’ horses was frightened and bolted causing much damage and he was afraid of being made bankrupt till a lawyer – Genyk Soyka – sued the local authorities and won.
Klym knew Genyk in Lyiv and worked for him but has not seen him for a while. He will not see him again because, when he arrives, Genyk is dead, apparently having killed himself. I say apparently because it looks like a classic locked room case. Klym is convinced that it was not suicide but murder. He is arrested, not because of Soyka’s death but because he is Russian and visiting Soyka, who had something of a reputation.
He is released because of the intervention of the mysterious Magda Bohdanovych and taken in by his cellmate, also released at the same time, a talkative Jewish dentist called Shatsky, However, he is soon warned to be careful. It seems that there is a general feeling that Russia wants to stir up trouble in Lviv so that it can take it over and the locals are not happy with this idea. Soyka, it seems, was involved with the Russophiles, i.e. those who favoured Russian intervention. Various local worthies, including Magda Bohdanovych, give him a gentle warning.
The police had suspected suicide but because of Klym’s comments and Magda’s intervention, they change their mind. However, it is our hero who will investigate. With help from Shatsky and various people from the Lviv criminal underworld, Klym carries out a detailed investigation.
Klym had been a big fan of Sherlock Holmes and other literary detectives such as Monsieur Lecoq (to his father’s disgust) and he uses some of their powers of deduction techniques to work who was guilty and why. Indeed, he has two motives for his investigation, not just the death of his friend and his own subsequent arrest but also because all his money was stolen when he was trying to change it into the local currency and he is determined to catch the culprits. In doing so he causes massive disruption in the centre of Lviv, resulting in his arrest again. Fortunately, the two crimes are connected.
His logic and deduction are very cleverly thought out and portrayed and, as with Sherlock Holmes, he is always one step (if not more) ahead of the police. There is, of course, a long, complicated clever plot with red herrings, traps and various dead bodies as even our hero is (slightly) misled. We learn, as well, a fair amount about the geography of Lviv and the political situation prevailing at the time. Kokotiukha has written numerous books, some in the crime and horror genres, but also in other genres. I hope some of these other ones appear in English.
First published in 2015 by Folio, Kharkiv
First published in English in 2020 by Glagoslav
Translated by Yuri Tkacz