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The Death of Achilles

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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 foun 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. . . .


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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 foun 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. . . .

30 review for The Death of Achilles

  1. 4 out of 5

    Assaph Mehr

    Back in Russia after his trip to Japan (about which details are frustratingly scant), Fandorin helps the police track down a hired assassin. He is accompanied by his Japanese manservant Masa, and displays some highly unusual, newly acquired skills. Action, drama, and nick-of-time chases keep readers turning pages. What to Expect Each novel is written as a different type of mystery. Akunin set out to rectify the low-brow reputation of the mystery genre in post-USSR Russia by writing worthy literatu Back in Russia after his trip to Japan (about which details are frustratingly scant), Fandorin helps the police track down a hired assassin. He is accompanied by his Japanese manservant Masa, and displays some highly unusual, newly acquired skills. Action, drama, and nick-of-time chases keep readers turning pages. What to Expect Each novel is written as a different type of mystery. Akunin set out to rectify the low-brow reputation of the mystery genre in post-USSR Russia by writing worthy literature and exploring the wide gamut of sub-genres. Each novel is therefore excellently written as a different type of detective case. While there is continuity in the protagonist's life between the novels, each is very different in themes and tones. I've written a condensed review of the whole series on my website. What I liked I like the writing style. The prose is intelligent and flowing, the mysteries are complex, and the cast is varied (though those that make repeat appearances tend to die). Fandorin himself is a great character, even though as a main character he still remains an enigma - a tantalising mystery in itself that keeps readers engaged and clamouring to know more. I love the historical background. Akunin has done his research into Russian culture, mannerisms, environment, personalities, etc. of the late 19th century / early 20th century. Most of the stories take place around Moscow, and Fandorin gets to meet and associate with the people of the times (from the low-life criminals of Khitrovka, to the grand-dukes of the imperial family). In a few cases, Akunin also has Fandorin active around notable events of the era, at times filling in details where history has left us stumped. Akunin is also a Japanophile, and has Fandorin spend a few years in Japan. While details are sketchy (and we want more! More!), it is clear that he has a great love and deep knowledge of that culture and times. What to be aware of Be aware that each of the novel is told in a different style. Besides the obvious (something new and different in each volume), one keyword  is 'told'. They are almost all in 3rd person perspective, and quite often not from the point of view of Erast Fandorin (which is both tantalising and frustrating at times). It's this distance that keeps Fandorin an enigma, and keeps us coming back to learn more. Fandorin has a Sherlockian intellect and impressive physical prowess. He is not without his faults (most notably hubris), but as a hero he is certainly a cut above the rest. He also tends to get involved with a different femme fatale in each book. This suits the detective genre perfectly, regardless of modern sensibilities. While the books are not really related and have few continuing characters, I'd still strongly recommend to read them in order. Lastly, and this has nothing to do with Fandorin, since these are professional translations (amazingly done by Andrew Bromfield) via a traditional publisher, the price of ebooks and hardcovers is almost the same. The ebooks are also missing some of the illustrations and other typographical effects that are present in the print. I'd definitely recommend reading the print edition, where possible. Summary Should you read these novels? Yes! By all means, if you love historical mysteries these novels are a must read. It is an intelligent, engaging, and just different enough series to be in a class of its own. It's not surprising that in his home country of Russia, Akunin out-sells JK Rowling. In fact, since it's been a few years since I've read them, I think I'll go back and re-read my favourites (Winter Queen, State Counsellor, and The Coronation). -- Assaph Mehr, author of Murder In Absentia: A story of Togas, Daggers, and Magic - for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Carey

    I'm reading these all again as I have been told by my clever Russian professor that despite the books being set in 1880, they are actually about modern Russia and not only is it fun attempting to work out which characters could possibly be today in modern Russia it gives the whole story an entirely different feel. I'm reading these all again as I have been told by my clever Russian professor that despite the books being set in 1880, they are actually about modern Russia and not only is it fun attempting to work out which characters could possibly be today in modern Russia it gives the whole story an entirely different feel.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    I will note that while you could feasibly read this as a stand alone, you really want to go back and read the entire series in this order (not necessarily in the published order): 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. This book: Our young hero has literally just returned to Russia from Japan after his duties there are completed. He comes to Moscow, where he is I will note that while you could feasibly read this as a stand alone, you really want to go back and read the entire series in this order (not necessarily in the published order): 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. This book: 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!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    A nice thing about series mysteries is the continuity of characters among the volumes. One grows accustomed to their faces and one expects they'll be back, if not the next time you read one of the series, then soon enough. 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 bo A nice thing about series mysteries is the continuity of characters among the volumes. One grows accustomed to their faces and one expects they'll be back, if not the next time you read one of the series, then soon enough. 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    Book 4 of this series and another really good one by Russian author Boris Akunin. Here we have our hero Erast Fandorin stumbling into a mystery. He comes to Moscow with his Japanese helper, Masa, and chooses to stay at the hotel where one of his friends and Russian hero, General Sobolov, is staying. Initially rebuffed at seeing Sobolov, Fandorin gets into the fray once it is revealed that the 40ish ageed General has died of an apparent heart attack, and worse yet it was at the apartment of a cou Book 4 of this series and another really good one by Russian author Boris Akunin. Here we have our hero Erast Fandorin stumbling into a mystery. He comes to Moscow with his Japanese helper, Masa, and chooses to stay at the hotel where one of his friends and Russian hero, General Sobolov, is staying. Initially rebuffed at seeing Sobolov, Fandorin gets into the fray once it is revealed that the 40ish ageed General has died of an apparent heart attack, and worse yet it was at the apartment of a courtesan! Lots of Russian coverups and intrigue as Fandorin tries to solve the mystery - also lots of plot twists and turns as Erast keeps discovering dead bodies everywhere. The book then switches points of view at about page 200, as we now follow the life and career of the assassin (oh yes, it was not a heart attack!), from childhood until the killing of Sovolov. So darn well-plotted and well written. The two antagonists finally have their stories and points of view merge by the end. And very well done as the author switches from one characters mind to another - all helped along with different font and type styles which allows the reader to easily follow these conflicting individuals. As always, so very well written. Akunin's books are political thrillers set in old Russia and while they are fascinating they are slow reading because you do not wish to miss any of the superb writing and storytelling.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa McShane

    I love Boris Akunin's books, but I think this one is my least favorite of the Fandorin series (which still ranks it fairly high). Fandorin returns from many years in Japan to find himself out of favor and out of touch, "exiled" to Moscow and away from the political excitement of the capital. He's the first one to realize that the death of an old friend and military hero is actually a murder, and the only one to pursue that trail. The bodies keep piling up and the evidence of a conspiracy mounts, I love Boris Akunin's books, but I think this one is my least favorite of the Fandorin series (which still ranks it fairly high). Fandorin returns from many years in Japan to find himself out of favor and out of touch, "exiled" to Moscow and away from the political excitement of the capital. He's the first one to realize that the death of an old friend and military hero is actually a murder, and the only one to pursue that trail. The bodies keep piling up and the evidence of a conspiracy mounts, with Fandorin always a step behind the killer, up to the very end. I think my dissatisfaction comes primarily from how very, very good the killer seems to be. The second half of the book tells his story, from his childhood through his perspective of the events of the first half, and his extraordinary abilities are pretty well justified. Even so, he was not only good but extraordinarily lucky, and I didn't really enjoy that because it made his, well, competition with Fandorin less than competitive, and such a lopsided challenge is no fun. I was also less than happy with the deus ex machina ending. I think it was meant to show that there was another conspiracy working against the first that was actually more powerful, but it wrapped everything up too easily. Even so, Akunin is a wonderful storyteller, and my enjoyment of the book wasn't ruined by what dissatisfied me.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Karen Jean Martinson

    As someone raised on Agatha Christie, I say unabashedly that good mysteries are a delight to read. The problem is that there are too few good mysteries. Too many of them read like the book equivalent of Law & Order, where exposition substitutes as dialogue, plot points as action, and character familiarity for true character development. God Bless You, Mr. Akunin. Akunin manages to weave an intricate tale that skillfully draws us into 19C Moscow and its intrigues while reflecting on larger issues As someone raised on Agatha Christie, I say unabashedly that good mysteries are a delight to read. The problem is that there are too few good mysteries. Too many of them read like the book equivalent of Law & Order, where exposition substitutes as dialogue, plot points as action, and character familiarity for true character development. God Bless You, Mr. Akunin. Akunin manages to weave an intricate tale that skillfully draws us into 19C Moscow and its intrigues while reflecting on larger issues such as social structure, the position of women in patriarchy, Western biases against Eastern culture, and, of course, crime and punishment (both legal and moral). But he does this all subtly, through the characters and their actions, so it never reads like a treatise on good behavior. Fandorin and his trusty sidekick Masa are lovely, so we care about them, feeling defeated when they face setbacks and elated when they succeed. And the mystery itself is well structured, with enough clues for us to follow and yet not quite put everything together as masterfully as does Fandorin. I'm looking forward to reading all of the books in the Fandorin series and then moving on to Sister Pelagia.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    I'm sure I'm quite late jumping on the Boris Akunin bandwagon, but if you're not familiar with him, I say, run, don't walk, to this series of mysteries featuring the Holmesian, James Bondish Russian detective of the late 1800s, Erast Fandorin. Like Henning Mankell's recent The Man From Beijing, this novel also contains two novels in one. After letting Fandorin plow through a confusing tangle of clues surrounding the sudden death of a famous Russian general, the book pauses to give you the backsto I'm sure I'm quite late jumping on the Boris Akunin bandwagon, but if you're not familiar with him, I say, run, don't walk, to this series of mysteries featuring the Holmesian, James Bondish Russian detective of the late 1800s, Erast Fandorin. Like Henning Mankell's recent The Man From Beijing, this novel also contains two novels in one. After letting Fandorin plow through a confusing tangle of clues surrounding the sudden death of a famous Russian general, the book pauses to give you the backstory of the bad guy, bring you up through his life until his path crosses with Fandorin's again in a sort of Rashomon journey through the same scenes that preceded the backstory, and then on to the exciting climax. Structure aside, it's another great yarn, enhanced by the skills (and valet) Fandorin acquired during time in Japan. I'm now backtracking through two earlier Fandorin mysteries so I can get the chronology straight. As far as I can tell, five of them have been translated into English, so here's to happy hunting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I enjoyed this book very much and it is a big improvement on "Murder on the Leviathan," which I found rather formulaic. This book was almost as good as "Turkish Gambit" with the characters much more fully fleshed out than in "Murder." I do have a weakness for good characterisation and will forgive an author for poor plotting if his/her characters are good. The structure of this story works very well and I liked the final section where the story is turned around to be viewed through the eyes of A I enjoyed this book very much and it is a big improvement on "Murder on the Leviathan," which I found rather formulaic. This book was almost as good as "Turkish Gambit" with the characters much more fully fleshed out than in "Murder." I do have a weakness for good characterisation and will forgive an author for poor plotting if his/her characters are good. The structure of this story works very well and I liked the final section where the story is turned around to be viewed through the eyes of Achimas. I loved the character Masa and my only criticism is that the author killed off General Sobolev! Criminal waste of a such a great character! Great read and one to keep on your bookshelf.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Very intriguing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Friederike Knabe

    It is the year 1882, and Erast Petrovich Fandorin, detective and diplomat in Tsarist Russia, has returned to Moscow after six years of foreign adventures, ready to commence a new role assigned to the Governor General of Moscow. Hardly has he settled into his new environment that the news spreads that his former mentor and friend General Michel Sobolev, known as "Achilles" by the adoring Muscovites, has been found dead. Fandorin, however, is suspicious of the circumstances of the death: the thirt It is the year 1882, and Erast Petrovich Fandorin, detective and diplomat in Tsarist Russia, has returned to Moscow after six years of foreign adventures, ready to commence a new role assigned to the Governor General of Moscow. Hardly has he settled into his new environment that the news spreads that his former mentor and friend General Michel Sobolev, known as "Achilles" by the adoring Muscovites, has been found dead. Fandorin, however, is suspicious of the circumstances of the death: the thirty eight year old General, fit as can be, does not die from a heart attack while sitting in an armchair in his hotel suite... This, the fourth installment of Boris Akunin's Fandorin detective stories (in English translation, there are more in the Russian original) is, without doubt, one of his best. Fans of the series will recognize some characters from previous volumes, including Achilles and ...well, an enemy who might turn out to be more dangerous than anybody else involved in the conspiracies centred around the Russian Royalty and governing class and the ongoing power struggle between Moscow and St. Petersburg. What makes it one of Akunin's best novels? His characters are very vividly drawn, Fandorin has "matured" even though he is still only in his late twenties, and his four years in Japan has equipped him with a few extraordinary skills and martial art tools. He has also acquired a Japanese sidekick, Masa, 'manservant' in name only. Last but not least, Fandorin has found an opponent of equal intelligence, sharp and cunning. Just over half-way through the novel, Akunin introduces this adversary, starting with the description of childhood and upbringing. The reader ends up almost liking the man. The author succeeds in developing this other central character, without losing any of the tension that has been built around Fandorin's investigation. We see two sides of the coin, we can make connections that neither of the characters can... Not satisfied with focusing on his central characters, Akunin paints a comprehensive picture of Moscow's class society of the day, and expertly evokes the underbelly of the city and the people who try to survive there - by any means. Readers new to Akunin and Fandorin, will nevertheless enjoy the book, however, it would be preferable if they started at the beginning with The Winter Queen: A Novel (An Erast Fandorin Mystery). Their enjoyment will be enhanced.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Tocotin

    It's the second book in the series I've read and I have to say that I enjoy them a lot, more for the atmosphere than for the mystery, however. They have this vivid, funny, sparkling sense of humor which is a trademark of the better Russian literature (Gogol, Chekhov and the like). The main character is nice enough (nice, for lack of a better word), strong, honest and invincible and all that - I don't care for him that much, but he's all right. The ladies, I noticed, are always the same, passiona It's the second book in the series I've read and I have to say that I enjoy them a lot, more for the atmosphere than for the mystery, however. They have this vivid, funny, sparkling sense of humor which is a trademark of the better Russian literature (Gogol, Chekhov and the like). The main character is nice enough (nice, for lack of a better word), strong, honest and invincible and all that - I don't care for him that much, but he's all right. The ladies, I noticed, are always the same, passionate, strong-willed and mysterious. The sidekick Masa is, I don't know, probably a caricature. The author supposedly knows Japan and Japanese, and still he calls Yokohama "Yokahama", and don't get me started on the weird mixing of ninja, samurai and yakuza stuff. These things have nothing to do with each other and a guy who was supposedly a "yakuza boy" (whatever that means) is not what you would call "a good man of Japan". The Japanese references are just too silly to be taken seriously, but whatever. I didn't like the villain at all. I guess I'm just tired to death of calculating, cold, psycho/socio/beat-your-dog-and-steal-your-breakfast-pathic guys as villains. Bo-ring. And rare, but, not in fiction. In fiction I get these guys delivered in buckets. Always so menacing, always as intelligent as the hero, and always setting boring traps. I'm rambling here, but I'm done with these suave dudes, really. Don't care. Shrug-shrug don't care. One star down for the lame exploitation of the Dutroux case. I happen to have read the court documents - fragments that is. This stuff made me want to die. I don't want to talk about this, but yeah - one star down.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Angie Boyter

    Listening in the car. I do not recommend the audio version of this book. That narrator does all of the dialogue with Russian accents, which makes it harder to comprehend and also is inappropriate in an English translation. Since the speakers are speaking their native language, presumably without accents, the English dialogue should also not have accents except perhaps for speakers for whom RUSSIAN is a foreign tongue, like Masa, the Japanese servant. Fandorin is his own man, but every book in thi Listening in the car. I do not recommend the audio version of this book. That narrator does all of the dialogue with Russian accents, which makes it harder to comprehend and also is inappropriate in an English translation. Since the speakers are speaking their native language, presumably without accents, the English dialogue should also not have accents except perhaps for speakers for whom RUSSIAN is a foreign tongue, like Masa, the Japanese servant. Fandorin is his own man, but every book in this series is somewhat different, as Akunin emulates/parodies/pays homage to a different kind of classic mystery. They are all good, but some I like better than others, and I imagine that is typical because the underlying type of mystery will appeal to me more or less. Midway through the point of view and narrative changed, and not in a good way. And our car trip ended. My reading went on hiatus while I wait for a used copy to arrive so I could peruse to see if this is worth finishing. My comment above was more prescient than I had realized! The new viewpoint persisted, I noted immediately, until about 15 pages before the end of the book, and I did not want to read that much about that character, so I read the ending, which seemed twisted in a possibly intriguing way but not enough to suffer through what preceded it. So I moved on to something else. Not Best of Boris!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    I really liked this one when I read it years ago. Upon rereading, I found it a slog, until about 1/3 to 1/2 through, when it did pick up and become exciting. This is the fourth of the Erast Fandorin mysteries, which are set in 19th century Russia. Erast is a government official detailed to 'special assignnments'. I was disappointed this time around, but people's taste change, and also I was in a 'Russian' phase those many years ago. I think the setting was what attracted me. Erast is tasked to so I really liked this one when I read it years ago. Upon rereading, I found it a slog, until about 1/3 to 1/2 through, when it did pick up and become exciting. This is the fourth of the Erast Fandorin mysteries, which are set in 19th century Russia. Erast is a government official detailed to 'special assignnments'. I was disappointed this time around, but people's taste change, and also I was in a 'Russian' phase those many years ago. I think the setting was what attracted me. Erast is tasked to solving the death of a famous general, nicknamed Achilles. Is the death from natural causes or has the general been murdered? Erast puzzles out the solution, with the aid of his Japanese valet cum right-hand-man, Masa. Also the often-bumbling police help. The novel was strange in that part way through, it plunges us into the story of the assassin and why and how the murder is committed. Finally he and Fandorin confront each other... I feel this is the weakest of the Fandorin novels. Masa comes across as a stereotype and was also intended as comic relief. If you're a fan of Fandorin, read this novel to keep up with the series, but I don't really recommend it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Bibliophile

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. An excellent addition to the Fandorin series – I loved the way that Akunin used a parallel narrator to Fandorin (and one who was, in many respects, very similar to Fandorin) and how the paths of these two individuals eventually collided. (There’s a bit of “Rashomon” homage here too, with the other narrator remembering the events we’ve already seen through Fandorin’s eyes, as well as what I can only see as a tribute to the Pink Panther with Fandorin’s Japanese valet, Masa.) In addition, the novel An excellent addition to the Fandorin series – I loved the way that Akunin used a parallel narrator to Fandorin (and one who was, in many respects, very similar to Fandorin) and how the paths of these two individuals eventually collided. (There’s a bit of “Rashomon” homage here too, with the other narrator remembering the events we’ve already seen through Fandorin’s eyes, as well as what I can only see as a tribute to the Pink Panther with Fandorin’s Japanese valet, Masa.) In addition, the novel contains a callback to the first Fandorin mystery (The Winter Queen), an intrigue at the highest levels of Russian society, and one scene in which Fandorin is surprised in his bath that had me laughing out loud, as well as a really clever retelling of the life of Achilles that appealed to my Greek mythology geek side immensely (hint: there is more than one death of “Achilles” in this novel!) My one quibble was that we never really found out what happened to Sobolev’s girlfriend, but I sort of hope we see her again in the series, because Fandorin clearly was attracted to her!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Possibly the best yet (I am slowly readying through them all). Our hero, Erast Fandorin, is becoming something of a ninja Sherlock Holmes. His adversary in this is something of the same, but a bad guy. All very entertaining. It takes place mainly in Moscow and is all about political conspiracies. Any more information would be a spoiler.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Olli

    Great book. Don't know how much was lost in translation, I read the book in Finnish instead of Russian. Great book. Don't know how much was lost in translation, I read the book in Finnish instead of Russian.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen Van de Crommenacker

    Another fun instalment of the Erast Fandorin series. I love the combination of historic background and fun classic detective story, all written in an engaging fast flowing style.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sienna

    He tells a fantastic tale. Halfway through he started a different tale, but of course it turned out to be the same tale, & fabulously told.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    Overall I enjoyed this despite not having read anything else in the series. Fandorin is a diplomat and detective who has returned home to Russia after having spent several years in Japan. He's known as a man who can get things done and it was intriguing to see his thought process as he worked through various issues of the case. My biggest problem was with how this book was set up. The first section is all about Fandorin and the case. Then boom, you are hit with section two which gives you the te Overall I enjoyed this despite not having read anything else in the series. Fandorin is a diplomat and detective who has returned home to Russia after having spent several years in Japan. He's known as a man who can get things done and it was intriguing to see his thought process as he worked through various issues of the case. My biggest problem was with how this book was set up. The first section is all about Fandorin and the case. Then boom, you are hit with section two which gives you the tedious back story of the villain before retelling key events through his eyes. The third section is the resolution. While it was quite interesting to see the two sides to the case, the sudden shift in perspectives really took me out of the story.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Olga

    I am only 70% done, but will have to re-read it when I can. Very intricate, dramatic, exciting story. While I was reading the e-book in Russian, my no-name cheap tablet got messed up, so I am now back to audiobook in translation. Unfortunately, the narrator is different from the previous 3 books. And it is just like all other translations: the reader cannot be bothered to learn how to pronounce Russian names and place names. Now, after having read several if Akunin novels in the original Russian, a I am only 70% done, but will have to re-read it when I can. Very intricate, dramatic, exciting story. While I was reading the e-book in Russian, my no-name cheap tablet got messed up, so I am now back to audiobook in translation. Unfortunately, the narrator is different from the previous 3 books. And it is just like all other translations: the reader cannot be bothered to learn how to pronounce Russian names and place names. Now, after having read several if Akunin novels in the original Russian, and having savored the delicious word choices, irony and inside jokes of Akunin, I am terribly annoyed when I hear "IvanOOshka" instead if IvAhnushka, OsipOvich instead if Ohsipovich etc. None of these should matter to an American reader/listener So I am currently waiting to revive my cheap tablet, and to have a genuine Kindle fire to be delivered in a few days (despite my frugality, or being a cheapskate). In the meantime, I just HAVE to learn how the story continues and ends. I think the above, although, not a real review, should give you an idea of how engaging this book is! Update: I ended up buying the whole Fandorin cycle in Russian, as e-books. True addiction! I am currently reading "Special assignments". Will not post any more reviews in English. It is totally worth reading them in translation, tons of fun, but for lucky me, it is the original Russian from now on.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    I have read all four of this Russian writer's detective novels and found them excellent. Apparently, he has actually written 11 books but only five so far have been translated into English. The detective lives in Moscow during the Czarist times and is or was employed as an investigator for the chief of police. He has amazing Sherlock Holmes type ability to notice the smallest detail and get the most from those clues. He has a Japanese valet who is also a dab hand at detecting and fighting the Ja I have read all four of this Russian writer's detective novels and found them excellent. Apparently, he has actually written 11 books but only five so far have been translated into English. The detective lives in Moscow during the Czarist times and is or was employed as an investigator for the chief of police. He has amazing Sherlock Holmes type ability to notice the smallest detail and get the most from those clues. He has a Japanese valet who is also a dab hand at detecting and fighting the Japanese ninja style. All and all very good reads.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Wm

    More intricately plotted with better villains and some fantastic scenes. On the other hand, it lacks the annoying yet haunting obstinate languor of the earlier three novels. A bit less post-modern. But still a fantastic tale. Would make an excellent movie and in this case I don't mean that as an insult. More intricately plotted with better villains and some fantastic scenes. On the other hand, it lacks the annoying yet haunting obstinate languor of the earlier three novels. A bit less post-modern. But still a fantastic tale. Would make an excellent movie and in this case I don't mean that as an insult.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    I really enjoyed this tale - Akunin is a comtemporary Russian author who has a good following in Europe. His character Fandorin is something of a Russian, 19th Century James Bond - a master of disguise that gets involved in all kinds of interesting adventures with a scruffy cast of characters that remind you of Dickens......

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    Eh. As the Russians would say "tak sebe.: This opinion may change as I keep reading, but enough of descriptive jabber already! Get on with the story of murder of a Russian general and the wily doings of the ever-so-smart detective Erast Fandorin... Keep checking this review page... Eh. As the Russians would say "tak sebe.: This opinion may change as I keep reading, but enough of descriptive jabber already! Get on with the story of murder of a Russian general and the wily doings of the ever-so-smart detective Erast Fandorin... Keep checking this review page...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Oh my God, fans of this series will love this book! If there were 6 stars, 7...!!! I love this so much, I want to buy the rest back from the used book dealer to whom I just donated them. LOL, the best! Really!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Margarita

    I think it was my favorite one in the series, about Fandorine, and he was admittingly dashing!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Darrell Woods

    Book 4 is back in Moscow, with Fandorin's time in Japan passed over other than the acquisition of some new fighting techniques and "not now Kato" style training with Masa. Working as a pair affords some helpful angles for the plot both comic and tragic as the hunt for the killer intensifies. The crime is relatively simple, but the trail is twisty and the villain's means of avoiding capture cunning and ruthless. Layers of political intrigue and the now seemingly essential betrayal are less import Book 4 is back in Moscow, with Fandorin's time in Japan passed over other than the acquisition of some new fighting techniques and "not now Kato" style training with Masa. Working as a pair affords some helpful angles for the plot both comic and tragic as the hunt for the killer intensifies. The crime is relatively simple, but the trail is twisty and the villain's means of avoiding capture cunning and ruthless. Layers of political intrigue and the now seemingly essential betrayal are less important than the battle of wills with the this lead protagonist, and a link back to a previous book is revealed. Here we have if not quite a Moriarty then certainly a Colonel Moran and the cutaway to the backstory while breaking the narrative somewhat is effective when the story is reunited 50 pages later. Probably the only criticism I can think of is that Erast is getting a little superhero like if you consider his advanced intellect, his powers of good luck and his new ninja level fighting skills. However, for the many fans of the series this is one of the best so far.

  29. 4 out of 5

    S'hi

    The beginning style felt a little pretentious, or perhaps the cover-notes mentioning great literary figures unsettled me. But once the writing settled down into the heavy work of creating atmosphere and shifting shadows of, through and around the various characters, I thoroughly enjoyed references which broke away from clichés. The midpoint of the story shifts direction 180 degrees giving the viewpoint and backstory of another character completely from the seemingly know-it-all detective. It is The beginning style felt a little pretentious, or perhaps the cover-notes mentioning great literary figures unsettled me. But once the writing settled down into the heavy work of creating atmosphere and shifting shadows of, through and around the various characters, I thoroughly enjoyed references which broke away from clichés. The midpoint of the story shifts direction 180 degrees giving the viewpoint and backstory of another character completely from the seemingly know-it-all detective. It is a masterstroke of skill development within the main characters played as parallel bars in a gymnasium. A most imaginative intrigue of balanced unknowing that wraps itself around the attention of the reader. It reveals the true power of planning as mere prelude in preparation. Wonderful conclusion.

  30. 5 out of 5

    The Scrivener's Quill

    I enjoyed the Victorian style writing. It reminded me of the Bram Stoker narrative. Darker Asiatic themes were present with murder, intrigue, and allusion to sexuality with no actual visuals, as one might expect in more modern writers. The Holmes model shows up with his side kick, deductions, and martial arts, and the Moriarty rival. One review talked about Ian Fleming. Definitely not as violent and sexual, but in the Victorian vein for sure. The dicta or reasoning commentary/discussions on life I enjoyed the Victorian style writing. It reminded me of the Bram Stoker narrative. Darker Asiatic themes were present with murder, intrigue, and allusion to sexuality with no actual visuals, as one might expect in more modern writers. The Holmes model shows up with his side kick, deductions, and martial arts, and the Moriarty rival. One review talked about Ian Fleming. Definitely not as violent and sexual, but in the Victorian vein for sure. The dicta or reasoning commentary/discussions on life and society aren't as prevalent as seen in more of the Victorian writing, but I really enjoyed the story, style, content, and narrative. The model appears consistent with the time and setting of the story.

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