The frightening underbelly of Russian or Slav Society - from the brutalised underclass of Tsarist times through to Stalinist era Gulags - in this story has been transposed to our own times. Brought bang up to date in terms of circumstances and atmosphere and with modern attitudes toward personal relationships, the perennial mental conflict of the intellectual forced to descend to lower depths is depicted with immediacy. It imparts the frisson of a life alien to almost all of us in direct, comprehensible, and therefore scarifying, terms. The mental and physical world as delineated by this prize-winning author is recognisable both to devotees of Gorky or Soltzenhitzyn as well as to general readers. It is gritty realism writ large. We see labour camp inmates, nominally at liberty, scrounge for their dollar under the heel of capitalist jackboots, both literal and metaphorical. Their lives are basic. Malevolence is smouldering even when the wenches come. These conditions are relieved by intermittent sparkles of humanity that a trained eye, that of the sensitive lecturer driven to such desperate shifts so as to fund an eye operation for his child, can detect. He has 3000 Roubles to earn, a road to build in the middle of nowhere, and cold, cruelty, hunger, and solitude to combat. He is as fascinated as he is repelled by human nature in the raw. He observes, even as he is unwillingly drawn into, the dangerous flare-ups of relationships with such low types at close quarters. The setting is in a harsh natural environment that the author is a master at describing. Our protagonist does not give in. He draws his cold hell in vivid detail. The pet dog, flayed and then eaten by the worst type of guttersnipe, is a potent image in the context of this novel. Readers do not react casually to The Flayed Dog; it can and it has caused nightmares. Aidan Rankin has written a masterly, extremely readable, introduction to this work placing it in its historical and political context. A high class, accessible, sobering, and powerful read.