In 1882, after six years of foreign travel and adventure, renowned diplomat and detective Erast Fandorin returns to Moscow in the heart of Mother Russia. His Moscow homecoming is anything but peaceful. In the hotel where he and his loyal if impertinent manservant Masa are staying, Fandorin's old war-hero friend General Michel Sobolev ("Achilles" to the crowd) has been found dead, felled in his armchair by an apparent heart attack. But Fandorin suspects an unnatural cause. His suspicions lead him to the boudoir of the beautiful singer--"not exactly a courtesan"--known as Wanda. Apparently, in Wanda's bed, the general secretly breathed his last.
I did enjoy earlier Fandorin outings but this is starting to get a little formulaic.
The best character is the villain - and there 'Akunin' managed to provide some serious interest.
The 'in-jokes' - like the price of re-building the Cathedral in Moscow and several references to 'England' I'm sure will be lost on most people.
Worth a read, but not a repeat.
the Winter Queen
The Turkish Gambit
Murder on the Leviathan
If you haven't met Erast Fandorin, then you definitely need to go back to the Winter Queen where he gets his start.
Our young hero has literally just returned to Russia from Japan after his duties there are completed. He comes to Moscow, where he is supposed to work under the auspices of one Prince Dolgoruski, who happens to be Moscow's governor. I believe the year is 1882. Fandorin is accompanied by his latest sidekick (he seems to have a different one in each story!) Masa, his Japanese companion. No sooner does Erast report for duty than he learns of the death of General Sobolev (who we met in The Turkish Gambit), beloved hero of Russia. The government orders an autopsy, finds no foul play, but of course, Erast thinks much differently. As he begins to investigate, he discovers that the bad guys (and there are many in this one) seem to be one step ahead of him; his work will draw him into conspiracies that threaten to put an end to his short but distinguished career.
Each book further develops Fandorin's character, and in this one is added a bonus of the character of Masa. In many ways, Masa adds a bit of comic relief when the tension starts building, and I hope this character stays for a while.
I highly recommend The Death of Achilles! Go get started on the others so you can read this one!
Bah! Humbug! sayeth Boris, happily killing off and abandoning people through the multi-year festival that is this entertaining and readable series. (Andrew Bromfield, the translator, deserves many kudos for producing such readable and thoroughly enjoyable translations.) This book's title is the clue to who dies this time, but I won't spoil it for the as-yet-uninitiated. I will, however, point them in the direction of The Winter Queen and encourage them not to shilly-shally, but start reading soon.
If you need a synopsis of the story, they're all over the place, but I say get goin' and make reading this your March Spring treat.
Otherwise this is a fun historical fiction mystery & Andrew Bromfield's translation is excellent.
It’s also less of a mystery and more of an adventure novel; I can’t say too much about that without revealing spoilers but suffice it to say that even if you follow things closely the identity of the murderer is still a surprise. The victim is General Michel Sobolev, “The Russian Achilles” and hero of the Russo-Turkish war (who was encountered in The Turkish Gambit). Sobolev is found dead the day Erast Fandorin returns from six years in Japan with the Russian diplomatic service. It’s apparently a heart attacks bit some of the powers that be thinks otherwise and direct Fandorin to investigate. We have the expected femme fatale, Russian gangsters, Russian politicians, and all the usual suspects. The Faithful Oriental Servant is vital to the action, and as Fandorin moves up in the Civil Service the level of political complexity increases.
Each Fandorin novel so far has had a different Point of View; this one continues that tradition - the first half is centered on Fandorin and the second half sees things from the murderer’s perspective. This works surprising well and makes up for the paucity of clues to the murder’s identity in the first part. One thing I liked is the author’s not afraid to show the hero making mistakes; many of the actions Fandorin takes in his part of the novel turn out to be egregious errors when seen through the perpetrator’s eyes. There’s a very subtle humor here that I’m beginning to appreciate more as the series continues.
Added later: I’ve since found out that Akunin has divided mystery stories into 16 genres, and intends to write a Fandorin novel in each. That explains the stylistic differences between novels.
About halfway through the book, just as Fandoran seems to have solved the final puzzle, the reader turns the page and we are, seemingly, in a different story. After a while I realized that this is the life story of the murderer and in the short third section of the novel the two stories do come together. I don't recall reading a mystery constructed quite like this one before. Although the switch to Achimas was slightly off-putting at first, I soon saw where we were heading and, in the end, I did enjoy this mystery.