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All the little children,
This review is from: The Winter Queen (Erast Fandorin 1) (Paperback)
In Germany it was student duelling - with sabres, as Mark Twain so vividly described. In late 19 century Russia it was suicide, sometimes performed in bizarre ways - one loaded chamber in a revolver [the reference to "American Roulette" is delicious]. In this case, the victim is a new orphan, having inherited a vast fortune. He doesn't leave life intestate, however. His will stipulates the property and money go to a British aristocrat who operates an international network of "progressive" orphanages. This raises a host of questions which will be sorted out by a new member of Moscow's Criminal Investigation Department.
In this rollicking story of a Moscow generally beyond our ken, Akunin introduces Erast Fandorin. He's a young man of aristocratic lineage lacking the financial security of Kokorin, the youthful suicide. Erast must make his way with his skills, and these are many. Language, in particular, is a significant talent, which is why he's sent to London seeking more information. He stakes out The Winter Queen - a down at heels hotel - because one of his contacts, the gorgeous Amalia Bezhetskaya seems to be using the hotel as a "drop". Tracking down people in London is risky at the best of times, but Fandorin, who is clearly too trusting, falls into one trap after another in his quest. He's also, in the best Russian tradition, too respectful of the nobility - until they prove unworthy of it.
Akunin is able to mix plot and characters with seamless talent. He builds this story and those involved with a deft touch. At less than 250 pages, to incorporate so much into such a limited space takes a rare skill. Nor, even with the economy of words, does Akunin leave anything out. The story flows and builds, starting from an incident in a Moscow park and culminating in a global conspiracy. It's a stimulating read and one which any "mystery" reader would enjoy - as would nearly everybody. stephen a. haines - [Ottawa, Canada]]