Another Boris Akunin crime mystery, set in Imperial Russia, this time with the year given – 1900. Erast Fandorin investigates a series of suicides linked to a society of death-lovers, but all is not, of course, as it seems and the suicides are being helped on their way by anything from suggestion to murder – but by whom?
Commenting on my first experience of the Fandorin series, I said the chief character was oddly elusive. That was written in the third person but from the points of view of just two people, Fandorin and his revolutionary adversary. Interestingly, in this book where the story is told largely by another character, I find out more about Fandorin. Why? I need to think more about that.
The book is well-written and fast-paced, both weird and credible, with surprises at the end: it’s a genuine mystery in that it sets out a puzzle with clues. The translation must have been a tough job, given that poetry plays a large role, people puzzle over the hidden significance of words and Fandorin’s Japanese servant is quoted extensively struggling with Russian pronunciation.
The setting just fourteen years from the outbreak of the First World War and seventeen from the revolution, makes one easily slip into believing the characters are real and wondering what happened to them. It makes them seem like figures on some newsreel or security film, going about their business oblivious (unlike us) of the dramatic and bloody events about to happen.