Sergey Kuznetsov “Butterfly Skin” Review

Posted: December 21, 2014 in Reviews, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , ,



Publisher: Titan Books

Length: 400 Pages

Review copy provided by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review

The novel focuses on the life of 23-year-old Ksenia, the Senior Editor of the News Department of, an online newspaper who is trying to hold its own against established media heavyweights such as Tickertape and Despite being younger and not having the same formal training as her colleagues, Ksenia has established control over the newsroom based on her ability to bring out the best of her employees and her ability to transform even the most mundane stories into something that readers immediately identify with and can apply to their own lives.

Ksenia loves her job, but wants more money from her boss and an opportunity to make a name for herself. He tells her that although she is an outstanding employee, the only way she will get another raise is to bring him a special project, something that will set their news site apart from the competition. This challenge sets about a chain of events that will forever alter the lives of Ksenia and those who are close to her when she realizes the perfect project will come from creating an extensive website dedicated to the Moscow Psycho, a brutal killer who has been committing horrific murders throughout the city. As Ksenia delves further into the project, she begins to develop a fascination with the savage sexual components of the murders as she begins exploring the darker side of her sexuality. The tension is amplified further after she falls in love with a mysterious person on ICQ chat, known only as “alien”, who seems to be the only person who truly understands Ksneia’s desires. Could this be the perfect partner Ksenia has been searching for since the demise of her last relationship or has she established a connection with the killer himself?

While reading Kuznetsov’s novel, I was torn on how I felt about it. The premise is extremely interesting – not only do we follow the characters tasked with tracking down the infamous Moscow Psycho, but we get an in-depth look into the troubled psyche of the killer himself. However, there are a few structural elements that really took me out of the story. Often time Kuznetsov switches between first, second and third person narration, often times within the same chapter. While some people may like it, it gets to be a bit confusing. I don’t mind when an author switches point of view in the narration, but doing so too frequently often rips me right out of the story. There are also a few name changes that are often jarring in the context of the story. One of the chapters focuses on a minor character named Alexi Rokotov and delves into his back story. However, inexplicably, he is referred to as Lyosha in that very same chapter. Is this a nickname? A translating error? There are a few instances of this throughout the novel and they hinder the reading experience at times when you frantically flip back to see if you missed something.

There is no denying that Kuznetsov is a talented writer, but at times the story is slowed to an almost glacial pace by focusing too much on the inner monologues of the various characters. While it makes the characters very complex and life-like, it hinders any momentum the story manages to build throughout the course of the coverage of the killer.

Despite these concerns, Kuznetsov has crafted an intense and brutal novel that explores the depths of darkness that lurks within everyday people. That is what truly makes the Moscow Psycho such a terrifying antagonist – for all of his brutality and warped rationale behind his need to kill, he is still an average person. As Ksenia’s boss states in the novel, he lives in the same city as the characters and probably visits the same places they do. His outward appearance of normalcy allows him to blend in with the rest of society and mask his capacity for violence until it is too late. This portrayal of a serial killer is certainly not a new phenomenon, but is utilized expertly in Butterfly Skin. While the novel does have some flaws, if you enjoyed The Silence of the Lambs or Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, Butterfly Skin is definitely worth a read.

Rating: 3/5


Titan Books Official Website

Purchase Butterfly Skin on Amazon


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