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The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen (1998)

by Boris Akunin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Erast Fandorin (1)

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Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
This novel is set in 1870s Russia and begins intriguingly enough with the suicide of a young man in a park. The reader is then introduced to Erast Fandorin, a police officer who investigates what occurred with the suicide and finds some interesting connections. Fandorin is young and still learning the art of being a police officer and he is often awkward and cheats death a number of times. That said he is likeable and this carries the novel. The novel is interesting for the cultural difference, being a Russian novel and there is plenty of fun to be had with it. The mystery plays out fairly predictably and in many ways it has elements of farce in how it plays out. ( )
1 vote Tifi | Apr 1, 2018 |
A series of detective stories set in Tsarist Russian. There are eleven novels in the series (so far), three (so far) have been translated into English.

My main interest in this sort of book is as a gentle introduction to the manners and customs of a different time and place. If it happens to be a good story, so much the better. As it is, these are a little disappointing.

The hero starts out as a very young and very minor official in the Russian police. He is excruciatingly naive, but simultaneously gifted with extraordinary luck. He needs it, since in the first novel (The Winter Queen) what appears to be an unfortunate suicide turns into a global conspiracy (no, it’s not the bicycle riders). Fandorin meets a roguish count, a detective genius, a villainous butler and the obligatory femme fatale. He’s not the narrator, but he is the “point of view” character in that we only see what he sees. Due much more to Fandorin’s luck than his skill, (and even the villains acknowledge this) the conspiracy is eventually unmasked and thwarted, although Fandorin is permanently emotionally and physically marked by the result. Although the book’s a pleasant enough read, a lot of it just doesn’t “feel” right; in particular, there’s little to evoke the place and time of 1870s Moscow, London and St. Petersburg. It seems that with a few name and dialog changes it could just as easily be 1700 Paris or 1950 San Francisco.

The second novel (The Turkish Gambit) works better. Fandorin is now working for military intelligence in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. He’s not the POV character; instead it’s the liberated young woman Varyna. Fandorin is no longer the callow youth of the first novel; he’s now worldly-wise and cynical (at 21!). This feels a little off; I suspect the author didn’t plan on a series and found himself rewriting the character’s personality. At the same time the author seems more comfortable with the time, place and characters. The mystery’s better done; it’s less obvious Who Done It. I also always approve of any book that makes me want to read more about the history and philosophy of the time, and this one does; I know very little about the Russo-Turkish War and the politics of 1870s Europe, and I’m intrigued enough to want to read more.

The third book (Murder on the Leviathan) has a multitude of POV characters; in fact, practically everybody except Fandorin. It’s an Orient Express style mystery, with some of The Moonstone or The Sign of Four thrown in; if the author’s getting derivative at least he’s copying from good sources. Fandorin keeps up the cynical detachment adopted in the second novel; apparently the boyish naivete is gone for good. This time he’s on a slow boat to China (well, Japan) with a bunch of suspects involved in the mass murder of a collector of Indian (that’s East, not American) antiquities and his entire household. Everybody’s got a secret to hide and a reason to be the killer and although it’s sorted out in the end the use of multiple POV characters works well to keep the murderer’s identity cloudy. Again, unfortunately, there’s no particular spirit of time and some seeming anachronisms; the titular steamship has electric lights, for example, that I doubt would be used in 1878 even on a state-of-the-art ocean liner.

Despite the flaws, I’m interested enough to keep following Erast Fandorin’s adventures. We’ll see how the nest couple go, at least.

(Added later: Author Boris Akunin (pen name – real name Grigol Chkhartishvili) – has explained he has identified 16 subgenres of mystery fiction, and is trying to use each one – and also use a different famous mystery author’s “voice” in each. That explains when the style changes between each novel.) ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 8, 2017 |
The originally titled “Azazel” by Boris Akunin is the first book of the series ‘Erast Fandorin Mysteries’.
Akunin is an amazing writer. His language is beautiful and the Russian culture is shown very well. You can’t find here slang, but you really do enjoy the writing style. It is rich, vivid and very easy to read.
The character of Erast is very unique for a main character of the criminal drama. The romantic line is funny, the criminal line shows how lucky and inexperienced (which is true yet) Erast is.
Erast is still young and naïve, he is still open to the beauty of life and full of hopes for the future. But his mind is curious, eyes strong and reactions are good. Coming across public suicide case, which captures his attention, he can’t leave it alone. He isn’t very observant yet and he isn’t very strong, but he is earnest and he has the wish to make this world a better place as well as a curiosity to solve a case.
The plot is twisted to the point of you thinking not only about the characters and the murders, but about the whole theory of the World Domination.
Great book. Totally recommended. ( )
  NeroSeal | Nov 8, 2016 |
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. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This was disappointing. I was looking forward to a rip-roaring adventure. Instead I received an insipid hero and structure-less misadventures. I was unconvinced by the conspiracy and didn't really care about the fate of the characters. ( )
  Laurochka | Feb 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
He also reveals an unexpected moral subtlety. At the outset, The Winter Queen appears to display an alarming level of Russian xenophobia, in the form of an international conspiracy against Russia headed by an evil Englishwoman. But as the story progresses, so it emerges as something rather more complex. By the end, Fandorin – no longer the charming naïf but a saddened, white-haired figure – has solved the case, but in doing so has brought about a string of tragic consequences. He is faced by the uncomfortable question: has his sleuthing caused more unhappiness than it has cured?

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boris Akuninprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bromfield, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nikkilä, AntonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tretner, AndreasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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On Monday the thirteenth of May in the year 1876, between the hours of two and three in the afternoon, on a day which 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 which flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812968778, Paperback)

Moscow, May 1876. What would cause a talented student from a wealthy family to shoot himself in front of a promenading public? Decadence and boredom, it is presumed. But young sleuth Erast Fandorin is not satisfied with the conclusion that this death 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 himself. Relying on his keen intuition, the eager detective plunges into an investigation that leads him across Europe, landing him at the center of a vast conspiracy with the deadliest of implications.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:49 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Set in 1870s Moscow, St. Petersburg, and London, the book introduces to American readers Boris Akunin's internationally celebrated sleuth, Erast Fandorin, who investigates the suicide of a wealthy student in Moscow's Alexander Gardens and discovers that it is not an open-and-shut case but evidence of a vast conspiracy with the deadliest implications.… (more)

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