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I don't think I was meant to be rooting for the Murderer.....,
This review is from: The Death of Achilles (Erast Fandorin 4) (Paperback)
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.