Friday, 24 September 2010

Erast Fandorin

One thing that I did manage to do yesterday was to begin reading the latest Erast Fandorin novel by Boris Akunin – HE LOVER OF DEATH.

Boris Akunin is the pen-name of the Georgian author, Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili, a former editor of a literary magazine and now a full-time writer of fiction. Beside the series of nineteenth century crime novels that feature Erast Fandorin as the main character, he has also penned books about Sister Pelagia – a Russian Orthodox nun – and Nicholas Fandorin, Erast's grandson.

I happened to buy the first of Bakunin’s Fandorin novels to be translated into English – THE WINTER QUEEN – just after it was published, and liked it so much that I pre-ordered each of the later novels as soon as I knew that it was going to be published. Each of the novels has a different style, and fits into one of the sixteen subgenres of crime novels that Akunin is said to have identified.

So far I have bought:
  • THE WINTER QUEEN: This is a conspiracy mystery in which the young investigator Erast Fandorin discovers – and stops – a plot that will lead to world domination, as well as getting married and widowed on the same day.
  • THE TURKISH GAMBIT: This a spy mystery set during the Siege of Plevna, which took place during the Russo-Turkish War. Erast Fandorin sets out to counter the damage being done to the Russian war effort by a well-disguised Turkish spy, and in the process helps to capture Plevna and end the war.
  • MURDER ON THE LEVIATHAN: An Agatha Christie-style closed set-up mystery set on a large luxury liner on its way from Europe to India. Erast Fandorin manages to solve several murders, recover a vital clue to a 'lost' treasure, and prevent the ship from being deliberately sunk by the murders.
  • DEATH OF ACHILLES: This is the story of Erast Fandorin’s hunt for the hired assassin who has succeeded in killing General Sobolev (the military hero featured in THE TURKISH GAMBIT) in a Moscow hotel. Part of the story concentrates on how Achimas Welde became an assassin, and how he had only failed to complete his murderous missions three times during his career ... one of them being the failed attempt on Fandorin's life that takes place at the end of THE WINTER QUEEN, and which results in the death of Erast's wife.
  • JACK OF SPADES (published along with THE DECORATOR under the title SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS): This is a novella about Erast Fandorin’s attempts to hunt down and arrest a very clever group of swindlers and confidence tricksters.
  • THE DECORATOR: This novella is about Erast Fandorin’s involvement in the hunt for Jack the Ripper, who turns out to be a Russian who has returned to Moscow after his killing spree in London.
  • THE STATE COUNSELLOR: This is a political mystery in which Erast Fandorin tries to counter revolutionary terrorism in Moscow.
  • THE CORONATION: The novel is set amongst Russian high society, and deals with Erast Fandorin’s involvement in the events leading up to the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II.
  • SHE LOVER OF DEATH: In this macabre novel a series of apparently unconnected suicides in Moscow lead Fandorin to uncover – and ultimately destroy – a society dedicated to death.
  • HE LOVER OF DEATH: This is a mystery which has echoes of Dickens, as it deals with life – and death – in the Khitrovka slums in Moscow. This is the area of the city where the professional criminal gangs hold sway, and where a treasure trove has been hidden.

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