I’ve previously reviewed The Winter Queen, Turkish Gambit and Murder on the Leviathan (to put them in chronological order rather than the order of publication in English), and now here’s the fourth of Boris Akunin’s Erast Fandorin series. This one seems to occur later in Fandorin’s career than Leviathan, but from reading it, I get the feeling that there might be another book to fit between them. Time will tell, I suppose.
Fandorin returns to Moscow after six years away. Most recently, he’s been based in Japan, and he’s accompanied by a young Japanese man who he calls Masa, who acts as manservant and has talents of his own. It’s not long before Fandorin is involved in a murder investigation – his old friend General Sobolev has been found dead, and Fandorin wants to know how this happened, and perhaps more importantly, how…
The first half of the story follows Fandorin’s investigation, which involves all the usual disguises, some new martial arts tricks he picked up in Japan, and of course Mortal Danger. It seems there is a conspiracy, and despite being warned off, he eventually tracks down the killer. The section ends as Fandorin knocks on the door of a room in a dangerous part of the city.
The second half steps back in time to tell the life story of the young man known as Achimas – not only the killer in this story, but as it turns out, someone Fandorin has run across before. As the section catches up with the time of the first section, all the gaps are filled in, and the truth is revealed.
Then there’s a shorter final section, where Fandorin confronts his adversary…
It’s all good page-turning stuff, and it’s a tribute to the skill of the translator, Andrew Bromfield, that the language flows so well, while still maintaining a distinctly Russian feel.
 All the traditional “you’re off the case” sort of thing, with a 19th century Russian twist
 Body count: moderately high