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The Death of Achilles (1998)

by Boris Akunin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Erast Fandorin (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8181618,663 (3.78)32
In 1882, after six years of foreign travel and adventure, renowned diplomat and detective Erast Fandorin returns to Moscow in the heart of Mother Russia. His Moscow homecoming is anything but peaceful. In the hotel where he and his loyal if impertinent manservant Masa are staying, Fandorin's old war-hero friend General Michel Sobolev ("Achilles" to the crowd) has been found dead, felled in his armchair by an apparent heart attack. But Fandorin suspects an unnatural cause. His suspicions lead him to the boudoir of the beautiful singer--"not exactly a courtesan"--known as Wanda. Apparently, in Wanda's bed, the general secretly breathed his last.… (more)



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English (13)  Swedish (1)  Dutch (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (16)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
It's 1882 and Erast Fandorin has returned to Moscow for the first time in six years accompanied by a Japanese servant. Almost immediately he becomes embroiled in an investigation into the death of the war-hero often referred to as Achilles. There are things going on under the surface and the investigation leads Fandoran into troubled waters.

About halfway through the book, just as Fandoran seems to have solved the final puzzle, the reader turns the page and we are, seemingly, in a different story. After a while I realized that this is the life story of the murderer and in the short third section of the novel the two stories do come together. I don't recall reading a mystery constructed quite like this one before. Although the switch to Achimas was slightly off-putting at first, I soon saw where we were heading and, in the end, I did enjoy this mystery.
  hailelib | Jan 29, 2019 |
The Death of Achilles, the latest Erast Fandorin novel (at least the latest in English translation), has many of the same flaws and merits of its predecessors. The “look and feel” is still anachronistic; I’m just not getting a feel for Moscow in 1882. The hero has acquired yet another mystery novel cliché, the Faithful Oriental Servant. And Fandorin is still possessed of supernatural luck, to the extent that he engages in a series of “handkerchief duels” with the sublime self assurance that he’ll be the one with the loaded pistol.

It’s also less of a mystery and more of an adventure novel; I can’t say too much about that without revealing spoilers but suffice it to say that even if you follow things closely the identity of the murderer is still a surprise. The victim is General Michel Sobolev, “The Russian Achilles” and hero of the Russo-Turkish war (who was encountered in The Turkish Gambit). Sobolev is found dead the day Erast Fandorin returns from six years in Japan with the Russian diplomatic service. It’s apparently a heart attacks bit some of the powers that be thinks otherwise and direct Fandorin to investigate. We have the expected femme fatale, Russian gangsters, Russian politicians, and all the usual suspects. The Faithful Oriental Servant is vital to the action, and as Fandorin moves up in the Civil Service the level of political complexity increases.

Each Fandorin novel so far has had a different Point of View; this one continues that tradition - the first half is centered on Fandorin and the second half sees things from the murderer’s perspective. This works surprising well and makes up for the paucity of clues to the murder’s identity in the first part. One thing I liked is the author’s not afraid to show the hero making mistakes; many of the actions Fandorin takes in his part of the novel turn out to be egregious errors when seen through the perpetrator’s eyes. There’s a very subtle humor here that I’m beginning to appreciate more as the series continues.

Added later: I’ve since found out that Akunin has divided mystery stories into 16 genres, and intends to write a Fandorin novel in each. That explains the stylistic differences between novels. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 21, 2017 |
Another absolute quality Erast Petrovich Fandorin mystery, in which our hero returns to Russia after several years in Japan, as a result he as now added Martial Arts skills to his already extraordinary talents, and gained a Japanese manservant.
No sooner does he start at his new post than he is investigating the death of a Russian hero, all the usual Boris Akunin traits are on show, well written with a great feeling of time and place, excellent characters, surprise, mystery and humour.
Recommended read. ( )
  Gudasnu | Nov 13, 2017 |
I like the hero of this series, Fandorin, and his Japanese servant Masa. I didn't care for the structure of this book though -- it is divided into 3 sections or "Books". By far the longest is the first part, which was a straightfoward narrative of Fandorin's investigation into the death of "Achilles", the popular Russian general Sobolev. Then, the second section breaks the train of the narrative and tells the history and background of the killer, leading up to the point at which the first section broke off. The third section then continues with the action. I found this second section disrupted the flow and although interesting, it was unnecessary to the story. Perhaps the publisher told Akunin that the book wasn't long enough so he added this section to pad it out.

Otherwise this is a fun historical fiction mystery & Andrew Bromfield's translation is excellent. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 30, 2014 |
bought today - present for L
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
To say that series mysteries are predictable isn't a nasty crack. It's just a way of acknowledging that some stories deliver their satisfactions through familiarity rather than novelty. Currently, I find myself relishing the exploits of old friends like Erast Fandorin, ...
added by y2pk | editNew York Times, Marilyn Stasio (Apr 23, 2006)

» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boris Akuninprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bromfield, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klemelä, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tretner, AndreasÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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The morning train from St. Petersburg, still enveloped in the swirling smoke from its locomotive, had scarcely slowed to a halt at the platform of Nikolaevsky Station, and the conductors had only just unfolded the short flights of steps and tipped their peaked caps in salute, when a young man attired in quite remarkable style leapt out of one of the first-class carriages.
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Average: (3.78)
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2 6
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3 46
3.5 25
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