Friday, March 6, 2015
Review of The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin (Phoenix, 2004)
The Winter Queen is a historical conspiracy tale, following the exploits of a dashing young detective, Erast Fandorin, as he seeks to foil a dangerous plot in late nineteenth century Moscow. It’s billed on the cover as ‘Sherlock Holmes meets James Bond’, the tale is knowingly a little fanciful, focusing on the dastardly plans of a shadowy organisation. Whilst it’s got many of the essential ingredients for such a story, the only real mystery is how the detective could not fathom the conspiracy when it is in plain sight to the reader. Moreover, the conspiracy requires a little too much suspension of disbelief at times. Fandorin is portrayed as a hero with much promise as a detective, and whilst he does manage to solve the case by following his intuition, he is also naive and makes some very poor decisions along the way, relying on the intervention of others and luck. The result is that after a decent start the story is largely held together by its swashbuckling endeavours, its portrayal of upper class Moscow and its hierarchical societal structures, and pace.