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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
The Death of Achilles: Erast Fandorin 4
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on 3 April 2009
If you can get over the fact that the numbering of this series is all awry, you will discover a debonair and clear thinking detective on the lines of Christie's Poirot.

Set in and around Russia's second city at that time, Moscow (St. Petersburg being considered the capital in Tsarist Russia) and if you know the city, you can identify with many of the landmarks and areas that exist even unto this day.

The logical and clear manner in which Erast Fandorin solves the crime is both fascinating and insightful into the methodology of policing in 19th century Russia. Boris Akunin's inclusion in this novel of a sub-story, relating to the life history of the assassin is another example of how Akunin's book stand out from the crowd of other whodunnits on the bookshelves.

A thoroughly enjoyable read and part of a scintillating series of Russian detective books, by a thoroughly competent and utterly readable author. I really am looking forward to the next instalment!
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on 2 February 2013
Well any woman would have fallen in love with the character known as the Russian Achilles from a previous story The Turkish Gambit. In this book he meets a sad ending which make my female heart very sad having been taken up with his character previously. Our hero, Erast Fandorin is of course asked to solve the case and he excels with his remarkable analytical skill and many adventures. Fandorin has returned to Russia after years in Japan and finds himself embroiled in court politics in Moscow. The author introduces some fascinating new characters including his new servant, the Japanese named Masa, who is an expert in yakuza and has taught Erast some fascinating new skills. Also in this book we have a court scene Russia style which is informative as it describes court activities in Russia at the time of the C19th. Excellent!
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on 16 May 2013
This is a particularly distinct Erast novel. Of note is the unusual story construction. Erast gets involved in the investigation of the death of a famous general which forms the first part of the novel. In the second half of the novel we have the detailed life story of the killer, then his movements and actions during the crime. In the last brief part we get the confrontation between the two. I have never read a novel which has this odd structure but it works somehow and is very entertaining. The character of Erast is expanded somewhat by his Asian adventures, acquiring Ninja skills which are someone outside his usual character of the reflective thinker. It is a good read and sufficiently different from the previous novels to retain interest.
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2007
The Fandorin series is being translated out of sequence. This was not such a problem for the reader where those two books were concerned, but (for me) it was a barrier to enjoying this one because we are told that Fandorin has spent 4 years in Japan, during which time he clearly had at least one mystery to solve because not only has he picked up an impressive array of martial arts skills (there's one, very well written scene where he gets to use a set of nunchaka and there are a number of instances where he displays his profficiency with sharinken throwing stars). This is such a sudden development for a character we previously understood to only practice gymnastic skills that it comes across as something of a Gary-Stu trait.

Similarly, Fandorin has now picked up a devoted Japanese manservant called Masa and whilst we get intriguing references to the story behind this (i.e. we know that Masa was in the Yakuza and that Fandorin saved his life) it would have been nice to understand the build up to this relationship and the clear friendship that exists between the two. Indeed, some of the best exchanges in the book are the culture clash scenes between Masa and Fandorin and my favourite was a scene where Masa allows a Russian lady into Fandorin's bathroom whilst his master is in a bath of ice cold water, on the basis that he thinks she's a prostitute.

As for the mystery itself, well it's nice to have a degree of continuity back to Turkish Gambit, although Sobolov never directly interacts with Fandorin and we do see Captain Guksamov again, who has more of a role in the early chapters. In fact, we also see the return of a character from The Winter Queen, with Fandorin's old police boss, Grushin, although it is regrettable that his role is cut short in one of the twist scenes as he was a believable foil for Fandorin's methods.

This is not a whodunnit like the previous novels. In the final third, we are told who the culprit is and the mystery moves to why and how he did it, unravelling nicely right up until the final third where Akunin, for some reason decides to fill us in on the entire backstory of the culprit and how he came to be who he is, before briefly summarising the book's plot from his perpective.

I also had an issue with the ending. It seems at first that Akunin is going for a deliberately downbeat ending with a pyrrhic victory for Fandorin and I actually quite liked it. However, Akunin then changes his mind and without giving anything away, I think it's a lost opportunity in terms of taking Fandorin's character forward.

My only other comment about the book is that it really would be useful for the publishers to set out a list of characters at the front. They did this for The Winter Queen and it does help you to sort through all the Russian names (particularly as Akunin uses two versions of the same name to describe certain characters).
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on 23 June 2013
I am totally 'hooked' on Erast Fandorin now after picking up books 1 and 2 in a 2nd hand bookshop. As the cover blurb says, they are 'Sherlock Holmes meets James Bond'. The stories develop at a pace which means they are 'un-put-down-able', and I'm sure they are written 'tongue in cheek' so are amusing as well as gripping.
I recommend newcomers to start with book 1 (The Winter Queen) as Erast's character develops signifantly by the end of the story.
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on 27 July 2010
This is an improvement on past stories but the addition of martial arts to Erast Fandorin many skills does vear very close to the worst excesses of JT Edson. The storyline does not. It has all the complexity of the many factions vying for attention at the Russian court crossed with the many forms of opposition to that rule A welcome return to form.
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on 4 May 2015
This is yet another page turner. I thought it was darker than previous novels in some respects but I could not wait to pick this up where I had left off. This was also very amusing in places. I hope to read the entire series.
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on 26 September 2015
Really good. Not actually steam-punk: there is no un-historical technology. Just a really good "adventure yarn", set in the late Victorian age. The Russian culture is particularly enjoyable.
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on 21 June 2012
Another complicated and engaging mystery from Akunin, with all the usual twists and turns - and some unexpected ones. A good read, as usual from this Russian master.
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on 17 February 2014
Another wonderful adventure, told by a princely butler who hates Erast, but has to 'help' him. He has to overcome his snobbery, but foils budding romance
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