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Author(s): Boris AkuninDownload  

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Moscow, May 1876: What would cause a talented young student from a wealthy family to shoot himself in front of a promenading public in the Alexander Gardens? Decadence and boredom, most likely, is what the commander of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Police thinks, but still he finds it curious enough to send the newest member of the division, Erast Fandorin, a young man of irresistible charm, to the Alexander Gardens precinct for more information.Fandorin is not satisfied with the conclusion that this is an open-and-shut case, nor with the preliminary detective work the precinct has done—and for good reason: The bizarre and tragic suicide is soon connected to a clear case of murder, witnessed firsthand by Fandorin. There are many unresolved questions. Why, for instance, have both victims left their fortunes to an orphanage run by the English Lady Astair? And who is the beautiful “A.B.,” whose signed photograph is found in the apparent suicide’s apartment? Relying on his keen intuition, the eager sleuth plunges into an investigation that leads him across Europe, landing him at the deadly center of a terrorist conspiracy of worldwide proportions.

Some Reviews: 836 in Goodreads.com

Tatiana

Tatiana rated it     

I don’t know if the charm of this novel translates well into English, but in its original (Russian) language this short historical mystery is delicious.

The Winter Queen (or as it was originally titled, Azazel) is the first book in a series of detective stories whose main character is Erast Fandorin. In this novel (set in 1870s Russia) Erast is a 20-year old wide-eyed youth who accidentally comes to investigate a strange case of public suicide. In spite of his naivete and innocence, Erast proves himself an astute detective and manages to untangle a world-wide conspiracy.

The best thing about this novel is that while it manages to give a taste of Russian history, culture and mentality, it never stops being a first-class entertainment, dynamic and fun.

I would recommend this book to anyone remotely interested in 19th century Russia, but who is intimidated by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

Corinne Edwards

Corinne Edwards rated it     

This is a brilliant book. The plot is clever and full of those “no way!” moments that I love in mysteries. I laughed out loud more than once – Fandorin is such a silly and unassuming hero, and his use of the “male corset” was absolutely divine. I did see a few things coming – but the writing was such fun to read, that it didn’t spoil the book for me.

I appreciate it as a work of Russian literature (excellently translated) – of course, the ending was incredibly Russian (we can’t have things be TOO happy, can we?), as well as the banter between characters about famous Russian novelists and poets – even reciting some Russian poetry. I liked getting a feel for Russia and Europe during the late 19th century – and how different detective work stretching across nations must’ve been before the telephone and internet. This book was a pleasure on many different levels, I’d read Akunin again.

Nancy Oakes

Nancy Oakes rated it     

Absolutely and totally fun novel, reminiscent of those old cliffhanger series things. I would recommend this book to readers who like what I would call “literary” mysteries, rather than the more fast-food type of reads (although, I must say, some of the ffrs (fast-food reads) are pretty good so I’m not slamming them — I have read hundreds in my time). Anyway, this one demands a little more of your patience & time, but you will be rewarded in the long run.

brief plot review w/o spoilers

Set in Moscow in the czarist Russia of 1876, the novel opens with a young man (a student named Kokorin) standing in front of a bench in a square full of people. The man takes out a revolver, puts it up to his head, and informs a young girl sitting there with her governess that unless she kisses him, he’s going to blow his brains out. She doesn’t and he does. Of course, the police are called in, and it turns out that on that same day, there were other public suicide attempts, all using the same method, all over town. The police are left baffled, but one enterprising young man, Erast Fandorin, sees that there must be more under the surface. Erast is just a newbie in the police department, but he is sharp. What follows keeps Erast on the edge of danger, and leads to a crime so vast it spills out of Russia’s borders.

I could say more, but I’d wreck the story and I HATE when people do that!

Considering that this is the first in a series, the main character comes off very strong, enough to where I found myself rooting for him the entire way. You might agree with some reviewers that it’s a stretch to believe that a relative newbie to the police department would be the one to be put on this case, and that a joe nobody would rise up so quickly, but hey…it’s fiction. No one says this must be believable. And it’s a fun story.

Neil

Neil rated it      

A to Z project, book 6
What a delightful mystery/adventure! Set in 1876 in Russia (and other parts of Europe) it follows an energetic but naive young man who has just begun a career as a minor functionary in the Moscow police. Erast Fandorin is something new (or perhaps something old made new again), a character who succeeds not through his abilities, although he is not without talents, but because fate seems to be on his side.

Akunin catches the tone of Victorian adventure very well. Plotwise, this reminded me of one of Sherlock Holmes’s escapades: a small local crime that expands into a big (and admittedly rather silly) international conspiracy.

There’s a dark twist at the end that has me anxious to continue in this series. On to The Turkish Gambit!

Wealhtheow

Wealhtheow rated it     

In 19th century Russia, young Fandorin yearns to do exciting police work. When he finds clues that imply that a recent strange suicide was actually murder, he excitedly throws himself into the investigation. Along the way he comes to the attention of Bezhetskaya, a woman as coldly efficient as she is beautiful, Brilling, a detective with a brilliant analytical mind, and Zurov, a deadly marksman who lacks any ambition. The plot is a wonderful series of twists and turns, none of which I expected. And Fandorin himself proves to be surprisingly likable. There’s one moment that particularly springs to mind, although it’s part of the seamless characterization of the young man: after he’s fooled his enemies into thinking they’ve killed him, he listens with bated breath hoping to hear what they thought of him, only to dejectedly listen to their dinner plans.

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