The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn
By: Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
When Inspector Peter Glebsky arrives at a remote ski chalet, he intends to ski, drink brandy, and loaf around in blissful solitude. But the chalet’s other vacationers — a famous hypnotist, a physicist with a penchant for gymnastic feats, and a large handful of others — are a nuisance, and so is the avalanche that soon cuts the inn off from civilization. And then there’s the dead body, which may not even be human…
I came across this book during one of my many browsings on GoodReads and Melville House website. I haven’t read much Soviet literature to date (despite studying it for a bit) and to come across a quirky book written during the Soviet period that’s a mash-up of the mystery crime drama and the crazy sci-fi slant (along with being just a quirky read with a slew of characters with strange quirks), well, I was totally sold to check out this novel 😛
Well, the book certainly lived up to its quirkiness. Poor Peter Glebsky just wanted some peace and quiet and he finds himself in the company of such strange vacationers all staying at the same remote ski chalet named after a mountaineer who never came back. Peter’s the one narrating the story and you could really feel his exasperation as he’s drawn into the dramas and problems of all of his fellow vacationers before the actually mystery develops. So until the mystery takes centre stage, it’s really all about these characters and their quirks and strange interactions with one another. I had a lot of fun learning about these various characters alongside Peter.
Once the mystery starts unfolding, things get really tense and interesting as all of these characters quirks and distinct personalities lend them suspect to the centre case in question. Poor Peter ends up having to do a bit of work too during his vacation 😛 It’s here that the genres also start bending and blending with each other, something between a Hercule Poirot mystery (the book blurb’s words–the narrative also hilariously goes a bit meta when Peter makes the same comment about his predicament) and an episode from The X-Files. I’m not sure how I feel about the way things ended up at the end there but the journey to that point–all of the questioning, the twists and turns–were very interesting to follow.
So the strangeness of The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn plot certainly did not disappoint. Some readers will find it too bizarre to really get around with, and it is a slow build-up, but I thought it was quite captivating in its weird, charming little way, and held my attention all throughout 😛 If genre mash-ups and speculative fiction (and Soviet literature for that matter) are your kinds of reads, you may want to check out this book 🙂