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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 Fando 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.


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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 Fando 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.

30 review for The Winter Queen

  1. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    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 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    The Publisher Says: 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 i The Publisher Says: 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. My Review: Young, orphaned Erast Fandorin has landed a comparatively cushy job for one whose comfortable future in czarist Russia was snatched away by the machinations of capitalists, beggaring and causing the suicide of his father: Erast is a fourteenth-class state functionary, serving a police official as amanuensis and errand-boy. It leads him into some odd alleyways, serving his about-to-retire master; his wit, his proficiency with language, his unquenchable curiosity lead his boss to allow, amused and indulgent of his junior's silly fascination with nothing criminal, Erast to investigate some odd goings-on among Moscow's Bright Young Things, including the suicide of a youth whose estate, over a million rubles, is left to elderly English philanthropist Baroness Adair. That one fact, that odd itchy ill-fitting wool sock of a fact, unravels an international conspiracy touching every government in the world, though it is unclear that this conspiracy has any evil intent, at least to me. Erast, extremely young and naive at the outset of the book, ends it extremely young, concussed, and in no possible sense naive and inexperienced any more. How that comes about is a page-turning pleasure to read. For once, I am glad I read the second book in the series before the first. I felt much more like I was investing my time wisely after reading Turkish Gambit than I might have had I read this book first. It's good, don't mistake me, but it's not as good as "Gambit" and it's not as clear and succinct, either. But good golly Miss Molly, it's a ripping good read full of explosions, betrayals, and general all-around wickedness and sneakiness. It's got young love, it's got hopeless infatuation, it's got comradeship and affection, and even a *very* memorable wedding scene. I am completely entranced with its picture of czarist Russia; I am excited to discover the roots of some of Erast's oddities; and I hanker to see these books turned into movies or TV shows, like Montalbano has been. I really feel I can SEE the action as I'm reading, and that's usually so much less of an issue for me; but this series is supremely visual. Read, and enjoy, and don't fear the commitment of time a new series requires, because like Rutledge, like Montalbano, there are a lot of 'em and they get better as time goes by.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Evgeny

    This is the first book of a very popular Russian series which brought fame to its author Boris Akunin (real name Grigory Chkhartishvili). Boris Akunin considers mystery genre to consist of several sub-genres - his own classification; he wrote each book of the series in each sub-genre (conspiracy, spy, political, Agatha Christie-type, etc.) In the first book we are presented with a conspiracy mystery. The main hero of the series is Erast Fandorin: a young man in 19th century Russian Empire; the fi This is the first book of a very popular Russian series which brought fame to its author Boris Akunin (real name Grigory Chkhartishvili). Boris Akunin considers mystery genre to consist of several sub-genres - his own classification; he wrote each book of the series in each sub-genre (conspiracy, spy, political, Agatha Christie-type, etc.) In the first book we are presented with a conspiracy mystery. The main hero of the series is Erast Fandorin: a young man in 19th century Russian Empire; the first book takes place in 1876. A talented student from a wealthy family shot himself in a broad daylight which seems to be the obvious case of a suicide resulting from trivial reasons, but our hero is not satisfied with this conclusion. He starts digging deeper and eventually stumbles upon a vast conspiracy. The book gives a depiction of Russian Empire at the turn of 19th century; I found the historical background to be excellent and Moscow feels really alive. As a mystery novel is fails on several accounts. A hero of a detective series can make it or break it. Consider the most famous detectives: Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Nero Wolfe, and others. All of them have very interesting and bright personalities. Erast Fandorin falls flat for me. He is not that smart to begin with and he usually solves the mystery right after the solution practically jumps into his face; but I really need to cut him some slack here as this is his first case. So what does he have going for him? He is incredibly lucky; quite often an assassin sent to dispatch him stumbles in the very last moment, something falls on his/her head and so on. His luck extends to gambling: he never loses a game of cards or dice. To me this looks like a cheap trick to make up for his deficiency in 'grey cells' area. Conclusion: 2 stars for mystery, 4 stars for historical background which makes up for 3 stars overall. This review is a copy/paste on my BookLikes one: http://gene.booklikes.com/post/754063...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Corinne Edwards

    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 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.

  5. 5 out of 5

    El

    Boris Akunin is actually a pen name of Grigory Chkhartishvili (bless you), according to the "About the Author" section in the back. "Akunin" is Japanese for "villain", a rather fitting pen-surname for someone who is apparently legendary in Russia for his crime novels. The Winter Queen is one of three mysteries featuring the detective Erast Fandorin. I understand all three of them were made into big Russian blockbuster movies. I think I might like the better movie. I'm just sayin'. This particula Boris Akunin is actually a pen name of Grigory Chkhartishvili (bless you), according to the "About the Author" section in the back. "Akunin" is Japanese for "villain", a rather fitting pen-surname for someone who is apparently legendary in Russia for his crime novels. The Winter Queen is one of three mysteries featuring the detective Erast Fandorin. I understand all three of them were made into big Russian blockbuster movies. I think I might like the better movie. I'm just sayin'. This particular story is being remade into an English film coming out next year. Thank god for Wikipedia for those of us who live under rocks. Akunin has the opportunity to create a really awesome detective, a Russian James Bond, if you will - yet I found Fandorin to be rather a wiener. He's a 20-year-old detective, still wet around the ears, who uncovers a plot for world domination. In Moscow, 1876. The concept seems pretty awesome, but my literary planets were clearly not aligned and I found myself mentally snoozing most of the way through this. Which is sort of a hard feat if it's meant to be a conspiracy novel. I expect these sorts of books to grab me from the beginning, shake me like a dog toy, and not let go until the end, when my proverbial neck is broken. I might check out the other two Fandorin novels. I want to like this guy because he's Russian, but I'm wondering if maybe I have a problem with contemporary Russian authors (ugh, Victor Pelevin) and may just need to stick to the classic Russian writers who had to write to save their lives. I wouldn't tell others to not read this book. I think a lot of people probably like it. Hell, all of Russia can not be wrong. They love this guy there, so I figure the fault is on my own side. So knock yourself out, and I promise to someday (no rush) check out another book by him. In the meantime someone needs to recommend a contemporary Russian author who isn't crap.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    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 i 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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    For the first half of this book, I was of the opinion that this was an 'ok' crime thriller, but one (like a few others I have read) which felt a bit thin. Some historical crime thrillers feel to me a bit like once the well-researched chosen cultural and chronological aspects are stripped away, you're not left with much except a simple story dressed up in unusual words. This had some strange names and social ranks, and the story set up in a fairly likeable way, the first half was fairly enjoyable For the first half of this book, I was of the opinion that this was an 'ok' crime thriller, but one (like a few others I have read) which felt a bit thin. Some historical crime thrillers feel to me a bit like once the well-researched chosen cultural and chronological aspects are stripped away, you're not left with much except a simple story dressed up in unusual words. This had some strange names and social ranks, and the story set up in a fairly likeable way, the first half was fairly enjoyable. But the second half, especially the final twist(s), was just silly. The repetitive superhuman and seemingly psychic qualities of the central character just got unbelievable, yet his blundering stupidity to get into the scrapes he then extracted himself from in amazing manner.. this was ridiculous too. There wasn't much wrong with the writing and much of the characterisation, but the plot was just daft. Meh. I read the last hundred pages quickly, rolling my eyes at the multiple sillinesses.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Neil

    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, t 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!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jest

    I have no idea why this series is so popular. It fails as historical fiction. It fails as detective fiction. It fails in pretty much every way imaginable. I did enjoy the part where the hero was saved by his own vanity in the shape of a 'Lord Byron' corset.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    I discovered Boris Akunin last year and immediately fell into his prosaic style. His novels are full of humor and suspense and there are parts that made me laugh aloud. These books are a fun, riotous read that you don't want to put down until you've completed each and every one of them.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is the first book of the series Erast Fandorin Mysteries. The plot is based on Erast Fandorin's investigation of the suicide of a wealthy student at Alexander Gardens in Moscow. He then discovers this a part of the "American Roulette" which was very well portrayed in the movie The Deer Hunter (1978) with Robert de Niro among others. A quite promising historical mysteries series.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Armina

    Damn. What the hell was that..?!

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

    I read #3 in this series, Murder on the Leviathan, a few years ago, and liked it a very great deal . . . which is why, of course, I picked up this volume. I've just noticed, while creating that link, that I read Leviathan because I'd enjoyed a different Akunin novel a couple of years before that; so the chain continues, link by link . . . Poor but bright and well educated Erast Fandorin has acquired a dogsbody job at the Moscow CID, where his avuncular boss predicts he'll go far. His opportunity I read #3 in this series, Murder on the Leviathan, a few years ago, and liked it a very great deal . . . which is why, of course, I picked up this volume. I've just noticed, while creating that link, that I read Leviathan because I'd enjoyed a different Akunin novel a couple of years before that; so the chain continues, link by link . . . Poor but bright and well educated Erast Fandorin has acquired a dogsbody job at the Moscow CID, where his avuncular boss predicts he'll go far. His opportunity comes when an aristocratic university student bizarrely commits suicide in a local park. Unpicking the ramifications leads young Fandorin to the Winter Queen Hotel in London and thence to love and to the core of an international conspiracy to subvert all the world's great powers . . . The book's described on the cover as "an Erast Fandorin Mystery," implying that it's a detective novel, but (unlike Murder on the Leviathan) it doesn't really fit easily into that genre; although the description will almost certainly mislead, it's more of a James Bond-movie-style caper, with its great conspiracy, the quest of its villains for world domination, their infiltration of the corridors of power and all other influential walks of life, and so forth. This is not to say that Fandorin is a James Bond figure -- he most certainly isn't -- or that the book has anything of the feel of a James Bond movie; merely that the plot belongs more to that genre. The telling is decidedly quirky (with lots of little parenthetical observations, mainly humorous, interpolated all over the place). This quirkiness makes for a certain lack of fluency and rubs up oddly against the tale's not infrequent moments of stark grimness, in particular its ending, which is as bleak as you could ask for. By the time I got to that ending I was in two minds as to whether or not I was enjoying myself. I found a lot to admire and certainly I'll be reading more Akunin, but at the same time I wanted to tell the author waspishly to tighten his text up a bit, to be a tad more disciplined about his tendency to self-indulge. At a guess, someone did tell him this, because I don't recall having the same reaction to the (later) Murder on the Leviathan . . . or, perhaps, I was just in a different mood while reading that other novel!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Wealhtheow

    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. 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    Erast Fandorin, a young policeman in 19th Century Moscow, is certainly a fresh and original character, and it is not hard to see why this series of books featuring him as the ‘detective’ have been so successful. Though quoted in some reviews as a Russian Sherlock Homes, his antics and miraculous escapes are more reminiscent of James Bond. Though starting out with subtlety, the plot evolves into a wild, improbable extravaganza, which for me is a bit over the top, I prefer the subtlety. The settin Erast Fandorin, a young policeman in 19th Century Moscow, is certainly a fresh and original character, and it is not hard to see why this series of books featuring him as the ‘detective’ have been so successful. Though quoted in some reviews as a Russian Sherlock Homes, his antics and miraculous escapes are more reminiscent of James Bond. Though starting out with subtlety, the plot evolves into a wild, improbable extravaganza, which for me is a bit over the top, I prefer the subtlety. The setting of Moscow and Fandorin’s travels across Europe to England is an attractive backdrop, and there is a story within the story going on, that of young Fandorin’s loss of innocence as he becomes aware of the evil in the world. As I say, not really for me, but appreciated anyway.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    I don't think I am actually that big a fan of the detective himself in this book. He was a bit dense and immature. What I did like was the era, the setting and the rest of the cast. I thought the author did a great job of making me feel like I was in 1876 Russia without being overly descriptive. I also thought the rest of the characters were quite interesting, the boss and the bad guys, the girl and her father, the femme fatale and the young men, all good. The end was maybe a little over the top I don't think I am actually that big a fan of the detective himself in this book. He was a bit dense and immature. What I did like was the era, the setting and the rest of the cast. I thought the author did a great job of making me feel like I was in 1876 Russia without being overly descriptive. I also thought the rest of the characters were quite interesting, the boss and the bad guys, the girl and her father, the femme fatale and the young men, all good. The end was maybe a little over the top too but all in all I really enjoyed this book.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Bettie

    Bettie's Books

  18. 5 out of 5

    Assaph Mehr

    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 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.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    This started out so well. A young man commits suicide in a park, right in front of a bench where a young lady and her chaperone are sitting. Young Erast Fandorin of the Criminal Investigation Department is eager to prove himself so he investigates the suicide and discovers that it was more of a suicide pact - or actually, a feud over a woman where two young men takes turn playing American roulette - and joking about how it will be re-named Russian roulette because of them. So far, so good. Our her This started out so well. A young man commits suicide in a park, right in front of a bench where a young lady and her chaperone are sitting. Young Erast Fandorin of the Criminal Investigation Department is eager to prove himself so he investigates the suicide and discovers that it was more of a suicide pact - or actually, a feud over a woman where two young men takes turn playing American roulette - and joking about how it will be re-named Russian roulette because of them. So far, so good. Our hero, Fandorin, follows various leads and ends up in London. He is almost killed, several times in fact, but discovers a giant conspiracy, spreading itself over most of the world. While doing this, he also has time to fall in love... So we have both a crime/mystery and a love story - where the crime part is by far the largest. The love story is more or less just pasted upon the rest - to build up to future books in the series, sort of, I guess. Now, normally I'm not into crime stories - but this taking place in Tsarist Russia, I thought it could be different. Also, Akunin is supposed to be a funny writer. For me, crime stories just isn't really the thing - and this one was to easy to guess on several accounts. Some of the major plot twists I had seen coming for so long that I almost got impatient waiting for the author to get there. And I'm not normally one to guess anything ahead of time. The funny parts - well, I loved how Fandorin was saved from one attempt on his life by his Lord Byron corset. But other than that - and the Russian Roulette re-naming - I didn't find anything particularly funny. And never really cared about any of the characters. Fandorin was in some ways to naive to at the same time be able to solve the mystery so his character didn't feel believable to me. And then the ending ... Sighs ... Well, that was another example of Fandorin being too clever and too naive at the same time. Didn't work at all for me and although it was a major event, I just didn't care ... I loved the idea of this series before reading the book but after finishing it, I doubt I will read another Fandorin book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie Jane (Literary Flits)

    See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I didn't realise when I read The Turkish Gambit (the second in this series) a couple of years ago, that Akunin apparently wrote each of the novels in the style of a different literary genre. I found The Turkish Gambit too slow, but this first book, The Winter Queen was much more to my taste. It's well-paced adventure tale that doesn't take itself too seriously so, although Akunin creates a good sense of late-1800s Moscow and London, there are See more of my book reviews on my blog, Literary Flits I didn't realise when I read The Turkish Gambit (the second in this series) a couple of years ago, that Akunin apparently wrote each of the novels in the style of a different literary genre. I found The Turkish Gambit too slow, but this first book, The Winter Queen was much more to my taste. It's well-paced adventure tale that doesn't take itself too seriously so, although Akunin creates a good sense of late-1800s Moscow and London, there are also plenty of dastardly deeds and the occasional moustache twirl! For me, The Winter Queen almost felt like a steampunk novel. It doesn't have any of that genre's wild inventions of course, but I thought it does have a similar sense of fun. Erast is nicely understated as a character, especially when set against the more flamboyant suspects in the murder case he puts himself to investigating. We get to see and understand this young man as bashful and often nervous in his first proper job - the start of what he hopes will become a successful career - and I could empathise with his stumbles. I liked that we then see him mature and grow more confident as the novel progresses. The Winter Queen was a pretty fast read. Its plot tangles well, but not too confusingly, and there is a good array of suspects and red herrings to maintain a reader's interest. I can now understand how Akunin's Erast Fandorin series (all eleven books of it) is so popular. I will probably go on to read more of them myself!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Christie

    Up until about page 150 I was ready to give the book a solid 4 stars. I've dropped it down to 3 stars overall after finishing. IMO, the story got a bit disjointed and there was a suspension of belief that entered the storyline that hadn't been there prior. To me, again IMHO, the author tried to sum up and bring to a close a story that had grown a bit large and somewhat overreaching. It felt as if the wrap up was rushed and not all the pieces fit nicely for me at the end as they had up through pa Up until about page 150 I was ready to give the book a solid 4 stars. I've dropped it down to 3 stars overall after finishing. IMO, the story got a bit disjointed and there was a suspension of belief that entered the storyline that hadn't been there prior. To me, again IMHO, the author tried to sum up and bring to a close a story that had grown a bit large and somewhat overreaching. It felt as if the wrap up was rushed and not all the pieces fit nicely for me at the end as they had up through page 150. A word of warning that there is a cliffhanger at the end. It was a quick read, and with as tough as I am on fiction, it was worth the time that I spent investing in the book and the characters.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Cerisaye

    I enjoyed this novel but it didn't grab me. It's a ripping yarn from the 19th Century era of 'The Great Game', a slightly tongue in cheek riff on a classic genre, with a handsome and youthfully naive hero pitted against the dastardly perpetrators of a vast international conspiracy. Erast Fandorin, a young man from a good Russian family fallen on hard times has a very junior position in the police service. He must navigate a complex web of conspiracy slowly revealed following the apparent suicide I enjoyed this novel but it didn't grab me. It's a ripping yarn from the 19th Century era of 'The Great Game', a slightly tongue in cheek riff on a classic genre, with a handsome and youthfully naive hero pitted against the dastardly perpetrators of a vast international conspiracy. Erast Fandorin, a young man from a good Russian family fallen on hard times has a very junior position in the police service. He must navigate a complex web of conspiracy slowly revealed following the apparent suicide by Russian roulette of a young man in the streets of St Petersburg. Fandorin is incredibly lucky, surviving several attempts on his life during investigations that take him to England. He's also rather credulous, and I had to keep reminding myself how young he is, and inexperienced p. Even so, it took him far too long to work out who's the Big Bad and not to trust anyone who might be involved. If you are looking for a complex mystery story then you will be disappointed. The novel is best at period setting and atmosphere, entertaining in the way of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman books. I had fun picturing Fandorin as a young Rufus Sewell in Middlemarch: the ladies find him very attractive! It's the first in a long series and I'm interested enough to want to read on, however, I was a bit disappointed, though perhaps my expectations were too high? I didn't feel that Fandorin quite comes to life in this novel. He's pleasant enough company but I didn't really care about him. It is funny that the first time he dices with death his life is saved by his Lord Byron corset, worn out of vanity. He's a bit full of himself, somewhat endearing but the narrative style has a distancing effect.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Yigal Zur

    guys. i am the first one to review it? amazing. this guy is so funny. thriller and fun. he knows how to create it with his russian james bond of the 19th century the police funny hero Pandorin. a must read

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Graham

    Mixed feelings about this. It was quite fun, and the first Russian who-dunnit I've read but towards the end I found it a bit madcap. It might be the genre I don't enjoy rather than the writer. I'd certainly consider trying another of Akunin's books.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    The year is 1876. Alexander II is Tsar of all the Russias. Akunin's hero is a neophyte at the bottom rung of the civilian bureaucracy with an interest in crime solving. Unfortunately, in addition to his youth (he is only 20), he has lived a relatively sheltered life and has an aversion to messy murder scenes. His superintendent tries to clue him in: “We spend most of our time around here polishing the seats of our pants and writing reports about the petty bourgeois Potbelly dispatching his lawf The year is 1876. Alexander II is Tsar of all the Russias. Akunin's hero is a neophyte at the bottom rung of the civilian bureaucracy with an interest in crime solving. Unfortunately, in addition to his youth (he is only 20), he has lived a relatively sheltered life and has an aversion to messy murder scenes. His superintendent tries to clue him in: “We spend most of our time around here polishing the seats of our pants and writing reports about the petty bourgeois Potbelly dispatching his lawful spouse and three little ones with an ax in a drunken fit,” he declares candidly. Crimes that are taken seriously are those against the state and there is currently a wave of fear against nihilist terrorism. Erost Petrovich Fandorin wishes he could be part of that crime-fighting scene. Be careful what you wish for. Even if we were to voice this warning, the youthful Fandorin would pay little heed. We can only follow his travails as he dives into the investigation of a puzzling but seemingly unimportant suicide. There is a single loose end to follow. Why would the victim, an extremely wealthy student who had recently inherited his fortune, choose to kill himself and in such a bizarre fashion? With tongue-in-cheek, Akunin calls the method American roulette. Akunin's characters display a range of voluble temperaments, a love of drinking and a proclivity for theatrics. It all feels so Russian, along with the various street names and hasty journeys to the capital, St. Petersburg. Akunin adds some entertaining humor. Fandorin, mindful of his appearance, tries out the extremely confining “Lord Byron corset.” Fandorin displays an overwhelming weakness for beautiful women. He muddles through an increasingly convoluted investigation, surviving by pure luck. Akunin puns on Maxim Gorky's name with a reference to an agent named Maximus Gorky. The plot is fairly linear. The initial mystery centers on the student Kokorin's suicide. A perplexing will is discovered. Another student who was apparently following Kokorin is identified. The story evolves into threads of political intrigue. Unfortunately, the events felt increasingly unconvincing, and by the half way point I had lost interest in the ultimate solution. Nevertheless, Fandorin was an entertaining and likeable character. Since this is the first book in the series, it's possible the books get better further on. NOTE: article about the author: https://www.newyorker.com/books/page-...

  26. 4 out of 5

    wally

    Akunin’s story begins like a parody of all those long-dead Russian masters, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, George Eliot. Too, I was comparing it to Peter Sellers in his role as Inspector Clouseau, in The Pink Panther. There’s shades of Sherlock Holmes w/the give and take of Erast and Ivan Franzevich. It doesn’t stop there though, as there are scenes reminiscent of Bond, James Bond, but Erast is not the lady-killer that Bond, James Bond is….Erast is a kind of….well, he’s his own man, an original, and thou Akunin’s story begins like a parody of all those long-dead Russian masters, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, George Eliot. Too, I was comparing it to Peter Sellers in his role as Inspector Clouseau, in The Pink Panther. There’s shades of Sherlock Holmes w/the give and take of Erast and Ivan Franzevich. It doesn’t stop there though, as there are scenes reminiscent of Bond, James Bond, but Erast is not the lady-killer that Bond, James Bond is….Erast is a kind of….well, he’s his own man, an original, and though I could see the traits of those others mentioned, this story was a joy to read, highly entertaining. Lots of twists and pitfalls…think Bond, James Bond….w/that Pink Panther twist…a kind of hybrid. Hey! American Roulette! I never knew! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! There’s more than a few dames, all of them gorgeous, a few down-right scary-airy, and…as noted below, there are numerous ladies w/naked shoulders….oboy, oboy! Not to mention a fine-looking knee or two, all treated w/delicacy and taste. Some blood-shed. That’s relative anymore, hey? The little old lady, or some messenger from the gods, w/ZEUS on the side-panel of the truck that wasn’t there in the story…well, this messenger shows up and so it goes. Even that was a-o-k. After all, this seems to be as much about devils as about anything….so really…why call it deux ex machina? Why not apply the correct address? Gods? or Devils? Or a combination of both? So then, what is the correct address? UPS? And I think THAT is as much a part of this story as anything. A few works mentioned in story: Dostoevsky’s novel, The Possessed, it’s a most eloquent prognosis The Book of Enoch Time Period: around May 1876 & following Cast of Characters Xavier Feofilaktovich Grushin, detective superintendent of the C.I.D. of the Moscow Police Erast (Erasmus) Petrovich Fandorin, clerk & civil servant, 14th class (our hero)…also, from the Greek Possibly, Fandorakis, Fandoropoulos, also, in English, Fanny…heh heh! ..also, alias Erasmus von Dorn…or von Doren (determined by ear) Ivan Prokofievich, scrawny, lanky veteran of police Pyotr Alexandrov Kokorin, 23, law student, dead within the 1st few pages…also called Pierre …also called Petrusha Elizaveta von Evert-Kolokoltseva, 17, daughter of full privy counselor, (oboy, oboy, Lizzie!) …also known as : Elizaveta Alexandrovna ….also Lizanka Full Privy Councselor Alexander Appolodorovich Evert-Kolokoltsev, chairman of the Moscow Privince Appellate court, Lizzie’s old man, doesn’t really figure, till the end. Emma Gottliebovna Pfuhl, governess, spinster, 48 Madam Baroness Margaret Astair, British citizen, prone to the foul custom of the breed Nikolai Stephanovich Akhtyrtsev, knows Pyotr Kokorin…American Roulette, heh heh! …also called Kolya Amalia Kazimirovna Bezhetskaya, (have you seen Bullwinkle? This is the equivalent of Natassa Badinoff) Anton Ivanovich John Karlich, English Butler Count Zurov, Hippolyte Alexandrovich, gambler, duelist, general madcap Lavrentii Arkadievich Mizinov, his excellency adjutant general, head of the corps of gendarmes, 3rd section Ivan Franzevich Brilling, state counselor (a kind of cop), also known as Chief AZAZEL: bit of a -theme-monster, like at wacky waters, great america, disney world, and in the Jewish Book of Enoch, Azazel, Azazel teaches people all sorts of nastiness…etc etc, rebellious demon, Spirit of exile Nihilist Organization: nada. they don’t exist. Mr. Gerald Cunningham right-hand man, opens Alstair House in St. Petersburg Timofei Andrew, servant of Lady Alstair Gebhardt, servant of Lady Alstair Lady Alstair (imagine Aunt Bea, from Mayberry, but w/a twist) Dr. Blank, an alumnus of Zurich Alstair House, genius physicist (electricity interests him) Orphans in blue uniforms, males, all males, the females are elsewhere, special usage, Alstair House Miss Olsen, The Winter Queen Hotel, Grey Street, London…cue the Elvis tune, return to sender No such character! No such name! or close, or is, but not, kind of the Oz of the story. Pyzhov, man in the embassy Prince Mikhail Alexandrovich Korchakov Mr. Morbid…bad guy…henchman., servant/butler sort Nicholas M Croog…or Nikolai Croog Nikola Mitrofanich Krug Fat Hugh Porfirii Martynovich Pyzhov, son of Martin, servant of God, provincial secretary…secret-agent man, Double-agent…thought “double-agent” is not a term used in the story. Kondrataii Kondratievich Shtukin, a kind of postmaster Minor Characters Numerous ladies with naked shoulders…..YAY! …a barber named Pierre Prince Vladimir Andreevich Dolgoruky, governor-general Nikolai Pavlovich Gnatiev, ambassador in Constantinople Pratt Dodds, U.S. Senator Dodds, Rear Admiral Jean Intrepide, French fleet, married eldest daughter of the duc de Rohan Anwar Effenci Midhat Pasha and Abdulhamid Agent Ailenson, detective, good nose on him Duty officer Lomeiko Mikhal Nikolaich Semyon, a servant Feodor Trifonovich Sevriugin, full state counselor, director of provincial gymnasium of Erast’s youth. Butler, John Karlovich Anton Semyonovich/commercial fraud division Lieutenant Fandorin, Erast’s old man, deceased Alexander Artamonovich Kokorin, rich, factory owner, dead 3 years His Highness Chancellor Korchakov, Akhtyrtsev’s gandpapa Prince Dolgoruky, governor-general Princess Korchakova Titular counselor’s wife Khokhryakova, witness Egor Nikiforich, investigator from district prosecutor’s office Semyon Efimovich Berenson, solicitor, witnesses the wills of two characters Sasha, 16-yr-old daughter of Grushin Ivan Eremeev Buldygin--name in a newspaper article, suicide Inspector Fedoruk, inspector, name in a newspaper article Avdotya Filippovna Spitsnya, landowner’s wife, newspaper article name Police Officer Semenov, another newspaper article name Niokolai Kukin, shopkeeper, grocery Mitrich, doorkeeper at Nikolai Akhtyrtsev’s building A villainous yard keeper Agrafena Kondratievna, the provincial secretary’s wife Frol Lukich, just a name in a story about cards, minor character Orest Kirillovich Instructions for Correct Breathing from the True Indian Brahmin Chandra Johnson Mr. Izyumov Agrsafena Kondratievna, Erast borrows medicine from, to look worthy wounded important, turns out it is hemorrhoid medicine…heh! Mrs. Johnson, or Nanny Lisbet, Erast’s “mom” prim and proper old maid Svyshchov, merchant, lost at cards to Zurov Gromov, experienced card master, throws bait to Erast, losing 100 rubles to him Jean, a kind of servant to Zurov, fiddles w/the gun to make the trick work. …a special messenger….at the end…

  27. 4 out of 5

    Blaine DeSantis

    A few days ago I had never heard of Boris Akunin, then I listened to a BBC Radio podcast about Russia and opponents to Putin and Boris' was interviewed. I looked up his works and thought this was a different type of series from others I have read and got Book 1. Well, I am sure that 2018 will see me return to Erast Fandorin mysteries time and time again. Wonderfully written. Not a long book but very compact in terms of all that happens (lots of words per page!). Premise is interesting: a young m A few days ago I had never heard of Boris Akunin, then I listened to a BBC Radio podcast about Russia and opponents to Putin and Boris' was interviewed. I looked up his works and thought this was a different type of series from others I have read and got Book 1. Well, I am sure that 2018 will see me return to Erast Fandorin mysteries time and time again. Wonderfully written. Not a long book but very compact in terms of all that happens (lots of words per page!). Premise is interesting: a young man approaches a young girl and her governess by chance in the local park and proceeds to commit suicide in front of them. Open and shut, plain and simple? Nope. Despite the Supervisor of the Criminal Division determining this is a simple suicide his recording clerk, Erast Fandorin, thinks there may be more. And quite a lot more there is. More death and turmoil, the Supervisor is fired and in his place is a new Supervisor (call him chief!) who is on the cutting edge of scientific detective work. But it is Fandorin who keeps asking questions and 2+2 never equals 4, usually it is 3. Something is missing and so he is put on the trail of investigating his hunches, even though nobody thinks he is on the right track. Guess what!!! A wonderful book filled with intrigue, fascinating characters and so many twists of fate that you never know how Erast will escape his newest dilemma. Deep breathing helps in one tight spot and his Lord Byron Gentleman's Corset helps in another. I was able to figure out some key mysteries to the case before they are revealed, but that in no way diminished my enjoyment of this book. Looking forward to Book #2 of this series.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    This book was a lot of fun and written in a fun and quirky style. The main hero Erast Fandorin was an absolute baller. The ending really threw me for a loop--looking forward to the next one. Loved the Russian setting as well.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mariella Deliyannis

    My first encounter with Boris Akunin was this book, the first in the Erast Fandorin series and it was like a rollercoaster ride! It was quirky, funny, sad, breathtaking, with close curves, with wild ideas and it acquainted me with a very likeable and sweet but also tragic character, Erast fandorin. I laughed a lot when he was saved from a knifing by a whalebone corset he was wearing for reasons of vanity and also when, trying to impress his boss, he borrowed a ticture from his landlady that was My first encounter with Boris Akunin was this book, the first in the Erast Fandorin series and it was like a rollercoaster ride! It was quirky, funny, sad, breathtaking, with close curves, with wild ideas and it acquainted me with a very likeable and sweet but also tragic character, Erast fandorin. I laughed a lot when he was saved from a knifing by a whalebone corset he was wearing for reasons of vanity and also when, trying to impress his boss, he borrowed a ticture from his landlady that was a hemorroids mediceine but I also felt sad for him when he lost his brand new wife by a bomb. Erast is a darling and he gains the sympathy of the reader that embraces him as a younger member of his famly and wishes him well. Also, the book is very well written and also the enviroment is nostalgic, czarist Russia. I will try and find as many books of this writer as I can. he must ahve a great sense of humour judging from his heroes! erast and there is also another series with a nun!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Carrie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. The Winter Queen tells the story of Erast Fandorin, a low level clerk in Czarist (1876) Russia, who starts out as a functionary in a police office, but over the course of the novel becomes engaged in a murder case that turns into an international conspiracy, and he learns the skills of a real detective. It is the first book in a series that is extremely popular in Russia, and has recently (well since 2004) been translated into English. Wow, I am full of parentheticals today. Anyway, at first I wa The Winter Queen tells the story of Erast Fandorin, a low level clerk in Czarist (1876) Russia, who starts out as a functionary in a police office, but over the course of the novel becomes engaged in a murder case that turns into an international conspiracy, and he learns the skills of a real detective. It is the first book in a series that is extremely popular in Russia, and has recently (well since 2004) been translated into English. Wow, I am full of parentheticals today. Anyway, at first I was really, really into this book. I'm interested in Russia generally, and that time period in particular (if you want to read a great book about Russian cultural history, may I suggest Natasha's Dance by Orlando Figes? It is a long, but absolutely fascinating dissection of what Russian culture is all about - particularly in the pre-Soviet era. I wish that there were more books like it that I could read about other countries - I learned so many interested things), and I am a mystery hound. The book is well written, and the character of Fandorin compelling, as he makes his transformation from naïve clerk to self confident detective. Because Fandorin is new to the detective game the reader has fun figuring out not to trust people a little bit before he does - but because the author is clever with red herrings, the answer isn't completely obvious. I was absolutely ready to call this one of the best reads I'd had in a while and to go out and get the rest of the series. And then, the book just lost steam for me. I couldn't put my finger on it at first, but I realized that near the end the book changed from a mystery story to a suspense story. I prefer a simple murder to a world-wide conspiracy. By the time I got to the cliff-hanger ending (which I don't really think was earned emotionally, but that's common to the genre - they can't all be Peter and Harriet, with their compelling love stories, can they?), I was over the whole thing. Maybe I'll eventually read another in the series, but I'm in no rush to do so. Disappointing, because I love the notion of the tsarist detective, but in the end the books didn't deliver, at least for me.

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