PrintE-mail Written by Jon Towlson

UK-based author Erik Hofstatter’s third book is an engrossing and intriguing novelette that haunts the mind as you’re reading, and for long afterwards: quite an achievement for such a short tale, and one that bodes well for the future of this promising young writer.

Set in present day Prague, Katerina tells the story of Kamil, a thirty-something mediaeval weapons trader who resides in the red-light district. Picking up whores is his favourite past-time, an activity that bespeaks his misogyny, a hatred fostered by his mother who was herself a prostitute. One night he solicits a nineteen-year-old who calls herself Ginny: real name Katerina. After a night of rampant sex, Kamil catches Katerina doing something very bizarre in his kitchen, and promptly kicks her out. But her disturbed mind seems to connect with Kamil’s in some strange way and obsession grows, as Kamil tries to uncover the nature of Katerina’s weird behaviour. It’s a journey that potentially leads to the darkest recesses of the human mind, but also promises redemption of a sort.

Katerina is billed as erotic horror and it certainly lives up to that description. Hofstatter tells his story in first person from Kamil’s point of view and immediately sets him up as a believable character, if not exactly a likeable one. In his own way, Kamil is a damaged as the whores he uses and abuses, and Hofstatter presents his world as one where callousness hides deeper turmoil. Katerina is a more overtly disturbed individual, and we can’t help but feel sympathy for her. Katerina is a love story of sorts, but one shot through with a very dark vein of dread that comes on like a pornographic Edgar Allan Poe.

At 42 pages, Katerina is a brisk, absorbing read, and Hofstatter keeps you guessing until the final moments. Sure, there’s the odd bit where the characters feel slightly inconsistent but Hofstatter’s writing style is strong enough that you forgive the occasional bump in the storyline in terms of plausibility. The ending is a bit abrupt – the author being keen to wrap up the loose ends, when with a bit more development this could easily have become a full length novel; the main enigma being strong enough to sustain a longer story. Having said that, Hofstatter leaves us wanting more. Maybe one day he’ll return us to these characters, as this reviewer, for one, would be happy to spend more time with them. Twisted though they are.



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