Penguin Lost finds Viktor Zolotaryov sneaking back into Kiev under an assumed identity to undertake a dangerous mission: He wants to find Misha, his penguin, whom he fears has fallen into the hands of the criminal mob looking for Viktor himself.
Guilt-ridden and determined to do what it takes, Viktor falls in with a Mafia boss who employs him in an election-rigging campaign, in return for introducing Viktor to other mobsters who can help him find Misha. And as Viktor goes from mobster to mobster, trying to survive in Kiev’s criminal underground, the evidence mounts that Misha may be someplace even worse: the zoo of a Chechen warlord.
What ensues is for Viktor both a quest and an odyssey of atonement, and for the reader, a stirring mix of the comic and the tragic, the heartbreaking and the inspiring.
In this supersonically-paced, but ultimately tedious sequel to Death and the Penguin, Viktor Zolotaryov searches for his beloved missing penguin Misha. At the behest of ailing Muscovite Bronikovsky, heartbroken Viktor leaves the Drake Passage and returns to Kiev, where, under an assumed identity, he becomes involved in a hodge-podge of shady dealings. Whether disguised as Bronikovsky, dealing with a Chechen warlord, or rigging elections for a corrupt politician, Victor constantly longs for Misha. However, his journey to find Misha becomes a burdensome trudge as Kurkov piles on muddled events and an unmanageable cast of characters. Despite its seemingly simple premise, the novel suffers from an uncoordinated plot and an awkward translation: "Viktor was struck by one full-face portrait showing scar and broken nose to maximum advantage, with the plus of an animal-at-bay expression much at variance with the smug Hollywood smile of the airbrush portrait." Readers should be prepared for confusion.