Moscow, May 1876: What would cause a talented young student from a wealthy family to shoot himself in front of a promenading public in the Alexander Gardens? Decadence and boredom, most likely, is what the commander of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Police thinks, but still he finds it curious enough to send the newest member of the division, Erast Fandorin, a young man of irresistible charm, to the Alexander Gardens precinct for more information.
Fandorin is not satisfied with the conclusion that this is an open-and-shut case, nor with the preliminary detective work the precinct has done—and for good reason: The bizarre and tragic suicide is soon connected to a clear case of murder, witnessed firsthand by Fandorin. There are many unresolved questions. Why, for instance, have both victims left their fortunes to an orphanage run by the English Lady Astair? And who is the beautiful “A.B.,” whose signed photograph is found in the apparent suicide’s apartment? Relying on his keen intuition, the eager sleuth plunges into an investigation that leads him across Europe, landing him at the deadly center of a terrorist conspiracy of worldwide proportions.
In this thrilling mystery that brings nineteenth-century Russia to vivid life, Akunin has created one of the most eagerly anticipated novels in years.
Paris, 1878: Eccentric antiquarian Lord Littleby and his ten servants are found murdered in Littleby’s mansion on the rue de Grenelle, and a priceless Indian shawl is missing. Police commissioner “Papa” Gauche recovers only one piece of evidence from the crime scene: a golden key shaped like a whale. Gauche soon deduces that the key is in fact a ticket of passage for the Leviathan, a gigantic steamship soon to depart Southampton on its maiden voyage to Calcutta. The murderer must be among its passengers.
In Cairo, the ship is boarded by a young Russian diplomat with a shock of white hair—none other than Erast Fandorin, the celebrated detective of Boris Akunin’s The Winter Queen. The sleuth joins forces with Gauche to determine which of ten unticketed passengers on the Leviathan is the rue de Grenelle killer.
Tipping his hat to Agatha Christie, Akunin assembles a colorful cast of suspects—including a secretive Japanese doctor, a professor who specializes in rare Indian artifacts, a pregnant Swiss woman, and an English aristocrat with an appetite for collecting Asian treasures—all of whom are con?ned together until the crime is solved. As the Leviathan steams toward Calcutta, will Fandorin be able to out-investigate Gauche and discover who the killer is, even as the ship’s passengers are murdered, one by one?
Already an international sensation, Boris Akunin’s latest page-turner transports the reader back to the glamorous, dangerous past in a richly atmospheric tale of suspense on the high seas.
In Special Assignments, Erast Fandorin, nineteenth-century Russia’s suavest sleuth, faces two formidable new foes: One steals outrageous sums of money, the other takes lives. “The Jack of Spades” is a civilized swindler who has conned thousands of rubles from Moscow’s residents–including Fandorin’s own boss, Prince Dolgorukoi. To catch him, Fandorin and his new assistant, timid young policeman Anisii Tulipov, must don almost as many disguises as the grifter does himself. “The Decorator” is a different case altogether: A savage serial killer who believes he “cleans” the women he mutilates and takes his orders from on high, he must be given Fandorin’s most serious attentions. Peopled by a rich cast of eccentric characters, and with plots that are as surprising as they are inventive, Special Assignments will delight Akunin’s many fans, while challenging the gentleman sleuth’s brilliant powers of detection.
Praise from England:
“Boris Akunin’s wit and invention are a source of constant wonder.” –Evening Standard
“[Fandorin is] a debonair combo of Sherlock Holmes, D’Artagnan and most of the soulful heroes of Russian literature. . . . This pair of perfectly balanced stories permit the character of Fandorin to grow.” –The Sunday Telegraph
“Agatha Christie meets James Bond: [Akunin’s] plots are intricate and tantalizing. . . . [These stories] are unputdownable and great fun.” –Sunday Express
“The beguiling, super-brainy, sexy, unpredictable Fandorin is a creation like no other in crime fiction.” –The Times