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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 6 July 2014
Easy read and very enjoyable even if at the end some loose ends are left not fully explained
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on 19 June 2009
Imagine if Sherlock Holmes had trained as a ninja and Dr. Watson was a King Fu expert. The picture in your mind wouldn't be far off the heroes of this book, young Russian super-sleuth Erast Fandorin and his devoted side-kick Masa. Translated into English from Russian, 'Death of Achilles' sees Fandorin take on famed hitman 'The Jackal' (the one from Day of the Jackal) in a fast paced adventure that resulted in me spending over an hour sat on the loo at one point, reading the book, gripped. Not only is this a page-turning adventure, but its beautifully written too. I found myself smiling, both with pleasure from the story and also the skill with which it was penned. Not for one second does it feel like its been translated from another language. This is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in years. I am going to order the next two in the series and then persuade my girlfriend that Moscow would be a nice place for our next Summer holiday. Go buy it now and then lend it to all your friends. They will be forever in your debt.
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on 7 January 2008
A little disappointing. Several elements stretch belief to the limit - and coincidence is a too frequent contributor.
I did enjoy earlier Fandorin outings but this is starting to get a little formulaic.
The best character is the villain - and there 'Akunin' managed to provide some serious interest.
The 'in-jokes' - like the price of re-building the Cathedral in Moscow and several references to 'England' I'm sure will be lost on most people.
Worth a read, but not a repeat.
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on 1 November 2014
great : ))))
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on 10 October 2007
The Fandorin series is marked by being pretty inconsistent in style and this one is no exception. It's almost as if Boris Akunin is "trying out" different styles but for the reader, it makes it a little erratic. The second book was a pure Death on the Nile rip-off, the third had a young woman as the main character, with Fandorin sidelined as an enigmatic figure she's trying to figure out, and this one chops the book abruptly in two, the first part being a murder mystery Fandorin is trying to solve, and the second half being of all things, a biography of the Murderer.

It starts out promisingly - a famous figure is murdered and there's a cover-up. But then the old Akunin problems show up. Too much plot and sub-plot so that the reader becomes confused, too many characters with similar names and titles, and actually too many characters full stop. At times it seems that everyone Fandorin meets is allowed a scene, down to the most irrelevant people. Do we really need two scenes with the deceaseds weeping sister? Maybe Akunin has now become too famous to be edited.

Just when your brain is starting to hurt though, it abruptly stops and you're thrown into the biograpy of the Murderer. Then things start to look up. We see his terrible childhood, see his first murders, hear his internal monologue throughout. He's not a monster, he's just amoral. And has a sense of mercy, in his own efficient way. He eventually, tentatively, starts to form hopes and dreams unconnected with his grisly past, and maybe he's even capable of love.... I was gripped by his character and his story, and as it uncovered the events of the Murder we've already seen - but from his side - I couldn't put the book down. Akunin's obviously enjoying fleshing out someone different so completely and he's certainly his best character creation yet. Eventually of course, there has to be a showdown.

And therein lies one of the main problems. Surely you shouldn't be rooting for the Anti-Hero? But then he's such a sexy character, Fandorin is not. Our Hero has come back from Japan more Japanese than Russian, but it just serves to make him even odder. He's covered in shooting stars and nunchucks and takes ice-cold baths. He claps his hands sharply eight times to aid concentration, even in public. You have a sneaking suspicion that at something like 28 years old, he's a virgin. There's nothing wrong with his personality, really. He's moderately pleasant if socially a bit inept, incredibly clever and capable of friendship, but he's starting to buckle under the weight of "characteristics" (read: tics and eccentricities) that Akunin keeps adding on. He's becoming a bit of a cartoon. And he didn't really gain my sympathy. Even when he's in high emotion (for him, that means blushing), he seems as cold as a fish.

I will continue with the rest of the series - I've invested in it now, and they are intelligent reading. I can't resist a whole series of clever books just waiting to be read. I don't think they'll be better edited, unfortunately. And God knows what format each will take. But I can put up with that. I'm just praying he makes Fandorin more man, less idea.
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on 23 December 2006
This is a good read. It's not great and the Independent review is exaggerating to make a comparison with Flashman: the narrative has none of the energy nor the humour of Flashman. The translation is a little flat too. I will, though, read another.
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