Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin
First published in Russian as Azazel in Russia by I Zakharov in 1998. English language translation by Andrew Bromfield published in the UK by Weidenfeld and Nicolson in 2003.

Where to buy this book:

How I got this book:
Swapped for in the library at Camping Los Madriles, Isla Plana, Spain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in the internationally bestselling Erast Fandorin Mysteries series.

Moscow 1876.

A young law student commits suicide in broad daylight in Moscow's Alexander Gardens. But this is no ordinary death, for the young man was the son of an influential industrialist and has left a considerable fortune.

Erast Fandorin, a hotheaded new recruit to the Criminal Investigation Department, is assigned to the case. Brilliant, young, and sophisticated, Fandorin embarks on an investigation that will take him from the palatial mansions of Moscow to the seedy backstreets of London in his hunt for the conspirators behind this mysterious death.

I didn't realise when I read The Turkish Gambit (the second in this series) a couple of years ago, that Akunin apparently wrote each of the novels in the style of a different literary genre. I found The Turkish Gambit too slow, but this first book, The Winter Queen was much more to my taste. It's well-paced adventure tale that doesn't take itself too seriously so, although Akunin creates a good sense of late-1800s Moscow and London, there are also plenty of dastardly deeds and the occasional moustache twirl! For me, The Winter Queen almost felt like a steampunk novel. It doesn't have any of that genre's wild inventions of course, but I thought it does have a similar sense of fun.

Erast is nicely understated as a character, especially when set against the more flamboyant suspects in the murder case he puts himself to investigating. We get to see and understand this young man as bashful and often nervous in his first proper job - the start of what he hopes will become a successful career - and I could empathise with his stumbles. I liked that we then see him mature and grow more confident as the novel progresses.

The Winter Queen was a pretty fast read. Its plot tangles well, but not too confusingly, and there is a good array of suspects and red herrings to maintain a reader's interest. I can now understand how Akunin's Erast Fandorin series (all eleven books of it) is so popular. I will probably go on to read more of them myself!

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Boris Akunin / Crime fiction / Books from Russia


  1. I hope you'll be able to enjoy when you continue on to read more fo the books in this series! It sounds like this one was a good historical fiction novel which might lean on confusing at times but makes enough sense to always be enjoyable. And the translation sounds good!