The Winter Queen Paperback
by Boris Akunin
This is the first book featuring Erast Fandorin, the famous gentleman sleuth. Moscow 1876. A young law student commits suicide in broad daylight in Moscow's Alexander Gardens.
But this is no ordinary death, for the young man was the son of an influential industrialist and has left a considerable fortune. Erast Fandorin, a hotheaded new recruit to the Criminal Investigation Department, is assigned to the case.
Brilliant, young, and sophisticated, Fandorin embarks on an investigation that will take him from the palatial mansions of Moscow to the seedy backstreets of London in his hunt for the conspirators behind this mysterious death.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 256 pages
- Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date: 17/01/2004
- Category: Crime & mystery
- ISBN: 9780753817599
Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.
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Review by dougwood57
Boris Akunin introduces Erast Fandorin in 'The Winter Queen', a murder mystery, yes, but much more, 'The Winter Queen sprawls across Europe from Moscow to London and back to St. Petersburg. Set in 1876, the book starts with a 'bang!' - literally, a university student blows his own brains out in the Alexander Garden. This apparent suicide is the string upon which Fandorin begins to tug and an international conspiracy unravels revealing layer-upon-layer of delicious characters mostly of evil intent. Akunin's characters rarely are quite whom they seem to be at first. The book also ends with another 'bang!' to fortunately spoil what looked to be an all-too-happy ending. Hurrah for Boris Akunin! He has now produced something like 11 Fandorin mysteries as well as the Sister Pelagia series and other novels. Akunin's fame has finally spread from Russia to the US. Very highly recommended.
Review by Clurb
Well written (or at least translated), and slick with humour, style and great characters, The Winter Queen is one of the most entertaining pieces of historical crime fiction I've picked up.
Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
Watch out, Archie Goodwin - Erast Fandorin could easily replace you in the favourite detective stakes! A chance discovery, swapped for one of my own books, 'The Winter Queen' is one of the most intriguing, original, attractive novels of its genre I have come across recently. Fandorin has been described as part Sherlock Holmes, part James Bond, but in this debut, he is far too innocent and trusting to fall into either category (the cruel and devastating ending will no doubt change him in the next book, but hopefully not too much). He is very young, good-looking, intelligent and lucky, but also rather a tragic figure, which makes him a compelling character - fortunately, there are many more Erast Fandorin mysteries to read!Boris Akunin's style - or perhaps the translation of it - adds to the enjoyment. The conspiracy plotline itself is difficult to keep track of, with new twists and traitors uncovered in practically every chapter, but the writing is very jaunty and nostalgic of old cosy detective novels. The dialogue is necessarily dramatic, but always tongue in cheek - 'American roulette' is claimed by the Russians after the notorious suicide in the park which begins the mystery, for example. Some of the Russian names can be difficult to grapple with at first, particularly the polite terms of address, but it's easy enough to skim over and get the gist. An understanding of the country's history might also be helpful, but knowing nothing about nineteenth century Russia does not detract from the story. Time and place are presented naturally in the telling, making this an informative as well as entertaining read.
Review by polarbear123
I think I read Fandorin 6 before this so it was quite interesting to see the vast difference in confidence of the main character. DOn't take this book to seriously and you will enjoy it - it is rather tongue in cheek. The case rattles along at a fair old pace and as ever has moments of incredulity combined with sharp social observations and interesting national steretypes popping up here and there. The switching of the narative from main protagonist to side part is also a useful and intriguing device. On to the leviathan!
Review by SusanGrigsby
Boris Akunin's prose doesn't tell you that The Winter Queen is set in 1876 Tsarist Russia, it takes you there. It slows you down to an era before telephones, when steel nibs were replacing goose quill pens; an era when the potential of electricity was being explored and advertisements for Lord Byron's whalebone corsets for men (AN INCH-THIN WAIST AND YARD-WIDE SHOULDERS!) appeared on the front page of the Moscow Gazette. The language itself becomes part of the story, keeping the reader delightfully immersed in the world of the mid-nineteenth century.And perhaps that is why the first sentence is the exception to the rule of minimalist openings:<blockquote>"On Monday the Thirteenth of May in the year 1876, between the hours of two and three in the afternoon on a day that combined the freshness of spring with the warmth of summer, numerous individuals in Moscow's Alexander Gardens unexpectedly found themselves eyewitnesses to the perpetration of an outrage that flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency."</blockquote>My immediate reaction upon reading this sentence, was to check the publication date to make sure that I was reading a book that had been published in 1998. My second reaction was an intense interest in what outrage had flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency.Our hero, Erast Fandorin, is an orphan who lost his mother early in life and his father shortly before the novel opens. Before dying, his father gambles away the family fortune forcing Fandorin to leave the gymnasium and forgo university to take a job as a low ranking police department functionary.(Fandorin is a Collegiate Registrar, fourteenth class. In 1722, Peter the Great had introduced a table of ranks, which is included in the book, delineating status and seniority amongst the different government services. As a Collegiate Registrar, fourteenth class, Fandorin has a rank equivalent to a Naval Ensign.)Only three weeks on the job, his boss indulgently sends him to retrieve the suicide note of the young man who "flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency" by committing suicide in the Alexander Gardens. A student at Moscow University who was heir to millions, Pyotr Kokorin walked up to a young lady and her chaperone, declared his undying love for her, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.But that was not the only strange incident to occur in Moscow on that day, and from his desk at the Criminal Investigative Division, Fandorin suspected something more complicated was happening. Stretching the approval he got from his boss for his errand, he begins investigating what appears to be an outbreak of suicide attempts.Following the clues left by the dead student Fandorin stumbles upon a salon conducted by a beautiful mysterious woman, Amalia, whom he describes as a Cleopatra. Amongst her many admirers, was the suicide, Kokorin, and his friend and fellow student, Akhtyrtsev, and "an officer of the hussars, a well-set-up young fellow with a slight slant to his eyes and a smile that was all white teeth and black mustache" named Count Zurov.Leaving the salon, Erast falls in with Akhtyrtsev who, over drinks in a seedy bar, provides information about the suicide of Kokorin during a game of American Roulette.This being Boris Akunin's world, it is called American Roulette until the actions of his characters cause it to be renamed:<blockquote>"Kokorin had read somewhere about American roulette and he liked the idea. He said, 'Because of you and me, Kolya, they'll rename it Russian roulette--just you wait and see.'"</blockquote>When Akhtyrtsev is murdered and Fandorin injured, as they are leaving the "iniquitous establishment" the investigation is taken over by a State Counselor, Ivan Brilling from St. Petersburg, who dazzles Fandorin with a display of deductive reasoning reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes; "It's the deductive method, my dear Fandorin."Under new leadership the investigation picks up speed and the suspect pool increases, leading Fandorin on a race across Europe to England.Beautifully written, with a plot that Ian Fleming or Robert Ludlum would admire, The Winter Queen is loaded with almost mischievous literary references and sly humor.Boris Akunin, though born in Georgia, was raised and lives in Moscow. He studied Japan in the Institute of Asian and African Studies of the Moscow State University. He did literary translations from Japanese and English into Russian, including work on the "Anthology of Japanese Literature" and worked on the Pushkin Library.After the fall of the Soviet Union, he turned to filling what he felt was a gap in Russian reading material. There simply was no decent, entertaining fiction. There were political exposés, of course, and the classics, which had always been available, even under the Communist regime. But well written fiction for pleasure reading was practically non-existent. He set about to change that, writing about a young man who solved crimes in Imperialist Russia. Part of his plan for the series is to include a novel for each of the 16 genres of mystery crime fiction that he has identified. The Winter Queen is an international conspiracy, the second book is The Turkish Gambit, a spy novel and the third is Murder on the Leviathan, a classic cozy mystery.
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