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Special Assignments: The Further Adventures…

Special Assignments: The Further Adventures of Erast Fandorin (1999)

by Boris Akunin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Erast Fandorin (5)

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4371236,511 (3.83)24



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Two Erast Fandorin mysteries for the price of one. In the first our hero is tasked with tracking down the “Jack of Spades”, a con man adept at disguising himself and his female assistant to bilk people out of their money via various schemes. In the second, “The Decorator” is a brutal serial killer of prostitutes who lays out the internal organs of his victims after murdering them, an act he views as “making them beautiful” before sending their souls off to God. In both stories, Fandorin is joined by Anisii Tulipov, an assistant he grooms after transferring him out of a miserable job. Tulipov shows immediate promise and also provides some comic relief, such as when he’s subjected to electric shocks to the crotch during undercover work early on.

Fandorin is likable – tough, smart, a ladies man and imminently self-assured, but at the same time, honest and kind. The stories are taut and move along well. His adversaries not only match wits with him but also turn on him and his loved ones, presenting an additional element of danger to the reader. The stories are shocking at times in the violence of the murders, and also in the plot twists – a couple of things in “The Decorator” (and its ending) were quite surprising to me. I can’t say that I see how it would be possible for a reader to figure out whodunit in that case, but then again this isn’t my usual genre and I’m a fairly simple reader.

My only real knock on the book is its occasional anti-semitic reference; these are of course true to the period as anyone who has read 19th century fiction (Russian or otherwise) can attest, but this would have been nice to leave in the 19th century, and not carry forward as Akunin sometimes does.

Overall, though – entertaining and fun reading.

Quotes; just a couple:
On getting used to pain:
“’Working in a graveyard, you need a callous heart,’ he said in his quiet voice, with a compassionate glance at the exhausted Tulipov. ‘Any folk will grow sick and weary if he’s shown his own end every day: Look there, servant of God, you’ll be rotting just like that. But the Lord is merciful. He gives the digger calluses on his hand so he won’t wear the flesh down to the bone, and them as is faced with human woes, he gives them calluses on their hearts, too. So as their hearts won’t get worn away. You’ll get used to it, too, mister.’”

On listening:
“Listening properly was a kind of art. You had to imagine that you were an empty bottle, a transparent vessel connected with the person you were talking to via an invisible tube, and let the contents of the other person flow into you a drop at a time, so that you were filled with liquid that was the same color and strength, the same composition. To stop being yourself for a while and become him. And then you would come to understand that person’s essential being, and you would know in advance what he was going to say and what he was going to do.” ( )
1 vote gbill | Nov 25, 2013 |
Two excellent additions to the Fandorin mysteries, both seem like full length tales as they pack a lot of detail in. Nice touch with the connection with Jack the Ripper as well. ( )
  polarbear123 | Aug 22, 2012 |
I greatly enjoyed the two distinct but slightly interlinked stories contained in this volume. They displayed all the best aspects of Akunin's writing and Fandorin's character. I have read all American translations of the Fandorin series and like this one second best to Winter Queen. ( )
  Chris469 | Mar 5, 2009 |
Two novels in one volume. The first one is about a con artist who have conned the governor of Moscow. The second story is about a serial killer in Moscow.
As previous novels by Akunin, the suspense goes to the last two pages. It's worthwhile. ( )
  Adolphogordo | Jan 22, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boris Akuninprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bromfield, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nikkilä, AntonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stvan, Thomas BeckCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812978609, Paperback)

In Special Assignments, Erast Fandorin, nineteenth-century Russia’s suavest sleuth, faces two formidable new foes: One steals outrageous sums of money, the other takes lives. “The Jack of Spades” is a civilized swindler who has conned thousands of rubles from Moscow’s residents–including Fandorin’s own boss, Prince Dolgorukoi. To catch him, Fandorin and his new assistant, timid young policeman Anisii Tulipov, must don almost as many disguises as the grifter does himself. “The Decorator” is a different case altogether: A savage serial killer who believes he “cleans” the women he mutilates and takes his orders from on high, he must be given Fandorin’s most serious attentions.
Peopled by a rich cast of eccentric characters, and with plots that are as surprising as they are inventive, Special Assignments will delight Akunin’s many fans, while challenging the gentleman sleuth’s brilliant powers of detection.

Praise from England:

“Boris Akunin’s wit and invention are a source of constant wonder.”
–Evening Standard

“[Fandorin is] a debonair combo of Sherlock Holmes, D’Artagnan and most of the soulful heroes of Russian literature. . . . This pair of perfectly balanced stories permit the character of Fandorin to grow.”
–The Sunday Telegraph

“Agatha Christie meets James Bond: [Akunin’s] plots are intricate and tantalizing. . . . [These stories] are unputdownable and great fun.”
–Sunday Express

“The beguiling, super-brainy, sexy, unpredictable Fandorin is a creation like no other in crime fiction.”
–The Times

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:16 -0400)

In these two novellas, Erast Fandorin, 19th-century Russia's suavest sleuth, faces two formidable foes - one that steals money, the other, people's lives.

» see all 4 descriptions

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