Special assignments : the further adventures of Erast Fandorin

by Boris Akunin

Other authorsAndrew Bromfield (Translator)
Paperback, 2007




New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, c2007.


In these two novellas, Erast Fandorin, 19th-century Russia's suavest sleuth, faces two formidable foes - one that steals money, the other, people's lives.

User reviews

LibraryThing member gbill
Two Erast Fandorin mysteries for the price of one. In the first our hero is tasked with tracking down the “Jack of Spades”, a con man adept at disguising himself and his female assistant to bilk people out of their money via various schemes. In the second, “The Decorator” is a brutal serial killer of prostitutes who lays out the internal organs of his victims after murdering them, an act he views as “making them beautiful” before sending their souls off to God. In both stories, Fandorin is joined by Anisii Tulipov, an assistant he grooms after transferring him out of a miserable job. Tulipov shows immediate promise and also provides some comic relief, such as when he’s subjected to electric shocks to the crotch during undercover work early on.

Fandorin is likable – tough, smart, a ladies man and imminently self-assured, but at the same time, honest and kind. The stories are taut and move along well. His adversaries not only match wits with him but also turn on him and his loved ones, presenting an additional element of danger to the reader. The stories are shocking at times in the violence of the murders, and also in the plot twists – a couple of things in “The Decorator” (and its ending) were quite surprising to me. I can’t say that I see how it would be possible for a reader to figure out whodunit in that case, but then again this isn’t my usual genre and I’m a fairly simple reader.

My only real knock on the book is its occasional anti-semitic reference; these are of course true to the period as anyone who has read 19th century fiction (Russian or otherwise) can attest, but this would have been nice to leave in the 19th century, and not carry forward as Akunin sometimes does.

Overall, though – entertaining and fun reading.

Quotes; just a couple:
On getting used to pain:
“’Working in a graveyard, you need a callous heart,’ he said in his quiet voice, with a compassionate glance at the exhausted Tulipov. ‘Any folk will grow sick and weary if he’s shown his own end every day: Look there, servant of God, you’ll be rotting just like that. But the Lord is merciful. He gives the digger calluses on his hand so he won’t wear the flesh down to the bone, and them as is faced with human woes, he gives them calluses on their hearts, too. So as their hearts won’t get worn away. You’ll get used to it, too, mister.’”

On listening:
“Listening properly was a kind of art. You had to imagine that you were an empty bottle, a transparent vessel connected with the person you were talking to via an invisible tube, and let the contents of the other person flow into you a drop at a time, so that you were filled with liquid that was the same color and strength, the same composition. To stop being yourself for a while and become him. And then you would come to understand that person’s essential being, and you would know in advance what he was going to say and what he was going to do.”
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LibraryThing member afterthought
Two stories in one book that features the Deputy of Special Assignments, Erast Fandorin. However that's where the similarities end. The tone of the stories cannot be more different!

The former is a light read and revolves around a con artist who had been doing some monetary trickeries around Moscow in 1886. Known as Jack of Spades, for he always leave behind the Jack of Spade card after him, he finally met his match in a battle of wits with Fandorin. This is also where we are introduced to Anissi Tulipov, who ended up becoming Fandorin's most trusted assistant.

The latter is set in Holy Week 1889 and the tone is so much darker, like a huge cloud of storm looming in the horizon. A serial killer, known as the Decorator, is out to "beautify" those cursed with ugliness. These brutal killings are similar to those by Jack the Ripper in London, where prostitutes were annhilated. It is up to Fandorin and Tulipov to stop this monstrous killer before it is too late.

The second story is much more gripping than the first as it is set in a much faster pace and one can feel the urgency to get to the bottom of the mystery. With descriptive words by the author combined with a pinch on my own imagination, the word brutal is taken to an entirely new level!

Overall, both stories are well plotted with an interesting Russia backdrop and characters. I look forward to reading more of Erast Fandorin's adventures.
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LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
This book is actually 2 novellas, if you will, containing two different stories.

In story #1, "The Jack of Spades," Fandorin is up against a clever con man whose calling card is the jack of spades. He leaves it behind when he has pulled off a very successful swindle, and things come to a head when an Englishman is swindled out of a huge amount of money that the government must repay. Enter our hero and his new assistant, Tulipov. This one was pretty light hearted and very enjoyable to read.

Story #2 is entitled "The Decorator," and Erast finds himself embroiled in a series of Jack the Ripper-type slayings in the world of prostitutes. This one is much more serious a read, but still a total delight to watch Fandorin at work.

Very, very good, and fans of Erast Fandorin will definitely not be disappointed. One could read this before the other books in the series, but my opinion is that starting with the first and moving on will only help you understand Fandorin's character better.

Very well written and I highly recommend it to those who like mysteries set in a historical time period or place, or to those who have been following the series all along. I had to send to the UK for mine some time back, because I couldn't wait to read it. I guess I'll do the same in January when #6 comes out!
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LibraryThing member ericlee
Boris Akunin is brilliant and this is a real return to form -- as good as his first book. I love the fact that one of the most appealing characters is given Akunin's real, Georgian surname too.
LibraryThing member Adolphogordo
Two novels in one volume. The first one is about a con artist who have conned the governor of Moscow. The second story is about a serial killer in Moscow.
As previous novels by Akunin, the suspense goes to the last two pages. It's worthwhile.
LibraryThing member Chris469
I greatly enjoyed the two distinct but slightly interlinked stories contained in this volume. They displayed all the best aspects of Akunin's writing and Fandorin's character. I have read all American translations of the Fandorin series and like this one second best to Winter Queen.
LibraryThing member polarbear123
Two excellent additions to the Fandorin mysteries, both seem like full length tales as they pack a lot of detail in. Nice touch with the connection with Jack the Ripper as well.
LibraryThing member EssFair
This novel is reminiscent of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. Fandorin is a brilliant deducer assisted by the faithful, but nowhere near as brilliant, Tulipov. This book contains two of Fandorin’s adventures. In the first, he goes after a con man who is as brilliant as Fandorin. The ending is much like a Holmes’ ending—justice is served, but the con man gets away. In the second story, Fandorin goes after Jack the Ripper who appears to have moved to Russia. The author provides a surprise ending. Fans of Holmes should add Fandorin to their reading list.… (more)


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