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The Winter Queen: A Novel Hardcover – May 6 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st Edition edition (May 6 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060494
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060498
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.5 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 476 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #912,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Booklist

Three million copies of Akunin's Erast Fandorin historical mystery series have been sold in Russia, where the author is a celebrity. This volume--the first of nine installments so far--should get the series off to a rousing start in the U.S. It's set in Czarist Russia and stars the naive but eager Fandorin as a young investigator with the Moscow police. Why would a university student shoot himself in the middle of the Alexander Gardens? Fandorin sets out to find the answer and soon lands in the middle of a far-reaching international conspiracy. Yakunin effectively juxtaposes the comical innocence of his hero against the decadence of nineteenth-century Moscow--aristocrats idling in gambling clubs while the winds of revolution freshen. In his debut, Fandorin comes across as an odd but appealing mix of Holmesian brilliance and Inspector Clousseauian bumbling. Occasionally, Akunin's style seems a bit affected, aping the manner of, say, Thackeray, commenting on the foibles of his characters, but at the same time, that nineteenth-century tone is part of the book's appeal. Anne Perry fans, in particular, will enjoy this series. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“Mystery readers should enjoy this story. It is as Russian, and as international, as caviar and vodka! A crafty tale full of atmosphere, character, and action. I look forward to hearing more about the young detective Erast Fandorin.”–Anne Perry

“Elaborate, intricate, profoundly Czarist, and Russian to its bones, as though Tolstoy had sat down to write a murder mystery and came out with The Winter Queen. A wondrous strange and appealing novel, and not quite like anything you’ve read before.”–Alan Furst

"Atmospheric and engrossing, The Winter Queen is a historical thriller from the world of the czar. Boris Akunin is Russia's answer to Caleb Carr." -Kevin Baker

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First Sentence
ON MONDAY THE THIRTEENTH OF MAY IN THE year 1876, between the hours of two and three in the afternoon on a day that combined the freshness of spring with the warmth of summer, numerous individuals in Moscow's Alexander Gardens unexpectedly found themselves eyewitnesses to the perpetration of an outrage that flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 24 2004
Format: Paperback
Boris Akunin's The Winter Queen was a very nice 'read'. The first in a series, Akunin introduces us to Erast Fandorin, a young investigator newly hired by the Moscow police force. Erast comes to the police after his father's family fortune took a dramatic turn for the worse that jolted Erast out of a life of upper-income leisure into a career as a detective. Young, tenacious, intuitive, and more than a bit naïve, Erast is assigned to investigate a clear cut case of suicide. On its surface, an easy investigation designed to ease Erasts's entry into life as an investigator. Of course, all is not what it seems and Erast determines quickly that there is more to the case than a simple suicide. Erast (and Akunin) slowly peel away the layers of mystery and reveals in the process a world-wide conspiracy centered on a series of well run and maintained orphanages endowed by a rich, influential English noblewoman. Along the way Erast encounters love, lust, gambling, and avoids a series of death defying experiences. Standing alone the series of events described above sounds rather pedestrian. A well worn theme. However, the pleasure to be derived from this book is the setting, late 19th century Russia. Akunin has a keen eye for detail and atmospherics. He conveys (as does the excellent translation) a sense of what life must have been life in 19th century Moscow and St. Petersburg.
The book ends triumphantly but Fandorin's triumph turns bittersweet n the last few paragraphs. Although this made for a disconcerting jolt at the end of the book it is quite understandable when one considers that Winter Queen is the first in a long series of Fandorin mysteries. A happily ever after ending would not leave much room for drama in the next installment.
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By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 5 2008
Format: 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]]
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Format: Paperback
We learn from the book-jacket (and from the description above) that Akunin has sold millions of books in Russia, and that The Winter Queen is the first in a series of novels involving 19th century criminal investigator Erast Fandorin. I stumbled across this book on a table in Harrod's, and if the rest of the series are as fast-paced, witty and well-written as this one I am a new Akunin fan.
The book takes place in 1876 Moscow, where a good-looking, wealthy young gentleman approaches some ladies in the park and shoots himself in the head. Some in the Criminal Investigation Department wish to close the file immediately, an obvious suicide by a lovesick youth, but young Fandorin, a newcomer to the department, takes the investigation seriously. He starts uncovering all sorts of interesting secrets and conspiracies, taking him to London and back. Along the way he must deal with attempts on his life, learn how to gamble for high stakes, preserve his honor by issuing a challenge to a duel, and decide whether an agent in London is trust-worthy or a double-agent.
Some here have likened Fandorin to James Bond, or a Russian Sherlock Holmes, but he doesn't really fit either bill since he is too young, naive, eager to please and vulnerable compared to those classic characters. At various times in the novel Fandorin prepares to meet his maker, including one chilling scene in London where he gets to take a swim in the Thames, Harry Houdini style. We know he must make it to the next book in the series, but he seems to make it by the skin of his teeth. I agree with the reviewer who likens him more to the young protaginist from Caleb Carr's The Alienist, a much closer match in my opinion.
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