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The Death of Achilles: A Novel (Erast Fandorin Mystery) Paperback – April 18, 2006

36 customer reviews
Book 4 of 12 in the Erast Fandorin Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in 1882, Russian author Akunin's fourth novel to feature Erast Petrovich Fandorin (after 2005's The Turkish Gambit) consists of two parts that read like different books. In part one, the 26-year-old special agent comes to Moscow to investigate the sudden demise of national hero Gen. Mikhail Sobolev, who dies in the bed of an alluring courtesan. Fandorin learns of Sobolev's plan for a coup and of a missing suitcase full of a million rubles to fund it. The trail of the missing suitcase leads to the dangerous Khitrovka slums and then to Pyotr Khurtinsky, the scheming head of the secret section of the governor-general's chancellery. One step ahead of Fandorin is the mysterious Klonov, an assassin who may have once tried to kill our hero. As Fandorin closes in on Klonov, the narrative jumps to a retelling of the assassin's life. This shift brings a welcome change of storytelling, from the often stiff, theatrical language of the first section to a more natural, unembellished style. An exciting resolution only partly offsets this incongruity. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Russian mystery buffs revere Akunin (the pen name for Russian-born essayist and critic Grigory Chkhartishvili), who renders smart, stylistic thrillers set in the late nineteenth century. In the author's fourth novel to be published in the U.S. (after 2005's The Turkish Gambit), -Sherlock Holmes-like special agent Erast Petrovich Fandorin investigates the sudden demise of his old war-hero friend, General Mikhail Sobolev, who died of an apparent heart attack in the arms of a German nightclub singer. Details soon surface about Sobolev's plans for a coup and a missing suitcase containing the rubles to finance it. Fandorin's pursuit of the loot leads to the slums of Khitrovka and the criminally minded head of the governor-general's secret chancellery. The hunter soon becomes the hunted, as Fandorin is tailed by Klonov, an enigmatic assassin. Although some readers may be rattled by the novel's abrupt shift in point of view (from Fandorin's formal style to a more lyrical retelling of the hired-gun's life), Akunin's high-energy ending makes up for the narrative glitch. Allison Block
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Erast Fandorin Mystery
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; 1st edition (April 18, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812968808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812968804
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #962,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Lonya VINE VOICE on August 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
My mother never cooked pot roast the same way twice even though she made it every Friday night for years. It tasted different every time despite the fact that the basic ingredients remained the same. However, she managed to vary the ingredients and their mixture enough so that each Friday it tasted like a new dish. As a result I never grew tired of it.

The same is true of Boris Akunin's Erast Fandorin mysteries. Each one contains the same basic ingredients: the brilliant, handsome yet emotionally scarred Russian detective Erast Fandorin; charming yet dangerous women; a murder or series of murders which typically have or could have a political impact on mother Russia in the last quarter of the 19th-century; and a villain or villains who test Fandorin's physical and mental skills. Yet, in each one Akunin manages to mix and match the ingredients enough to make each one in the series seem fresh. The fourth in the series, "Death of Achilles", is as fresh as the first (the wonderful "Winter Queen) and was great fun to read.

The plot is relatively straightforward. Fandorin has returned from Japan to Moscow in order to assume the position of Deputy for Special Assignments to Prince Vladimir Dolgoruski, the Governor of Moscow. At his very first meeting with the Prince Fandorin is saddened and astonished to hear that that his friend and mentor General Sobolev, known to his millions of admirers throughout Russia as Achilles, has been found dead in his room. Fandorin is told that Sobolev has died of a heart attack while sleeping alone in his hotel room. Fandorin quickly determines that not only did Sobolev not die in his room but that he died in the midst of a passionate embrace with a well-known German woman of easy virtue.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Gene Gluecough on August 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Well, maybe Russian literature is great but it just happened so that in neither classical nor Soviet times there was no one like Conan Doyle in Russia to create its own Sherlock Holmes. So Moscow writer, Boris Akunin, made an attempt to fill this gap, creating Holmes type sleuth (with strong Bond flavor), Erast Fandorin, set in the late 19- early 20 century. The result was astounding, at least in Russia where he became a literary phenomenon. The thing is (which unfortunately was overlooked by English editions) Akunin created Fandorin novels as a project, each novel reflecting different genre of a detective story. The first one, The Winter Queen, is a conspiracy detective story, Turkish Gambit is a spy detective story, The Leviathan is an Agatha Christy style detective story, and so on. Thus in every different novel Erast Fandorin challenges a different type of a criminal- a cospirator, a con, a maniac, a spy etc. In The Death of Achilles he is pitted against a dangerous assassin. Fandorin, still a young man, through a series of adventures described in the previous novels, becomes one of the ablest and most distinguished Russian government secret agents. He is a role model, he has preternatural abilities, he helps weak and punishes the evil and cruel, but he is very unfortunate in love. That is why probably in every book he has a different mistress whom he can not love and a forgiving, knowledgeable reader knows why: true love lasts a life time. As a Holmesian hero he has his own Dr.Watson, who is not quite a doctor but is much more dangerous- a young Japanese man who used to be a Yakuza gangster and was saved by Fandorin while he was serving in Japan at that time (you will be able to read about this Fandorin's adventure in a novel The Diamond Chariot which is not yet translated into English).Read more ›
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By MrHonorama on April 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
The fourth installment of the Erast Fandorin series is hands down the best. I loved the first two Akunin novels, but thought The Turkish Gambit was not quite up to that standard. Here, Akunin adds to his literary magic.

The Fandorin character now has more dimensions - six years have passed since the last book, and he's just returned from a commission in Japan, having learned the ways of the Samurai and with a Japanese manservant. He also has new technology, like the telephone, at his disposal.

The typical Fandorin style is here -- a modern take on the breathless florid prose of the 19th Century. Akunin's wit and use of language (I know it's a translation, but could it read even better in Russian) is sharper than ever. The mystery elements of these books, as usual, aren't quite as important as the well drawwn characters, and Akunin has come up with two great ones in the temptress Wanda and the villain, Achimas.

Achimas is what makes this book so great. Not only is he a worthy advesary for Fandorin, but a lot of the book is written from his perspective. Here, Akunin gets to show off his abiilty to write in a completely different style. It all leads up to what I believe is the most heart stopping conclusion amongst the four books that have been translated into English. Great stuff.

We just need to get Andrew Bromfield to work even faster -- there are still seven or so Fandorins that need to be translated.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Milashka on May 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is my 4th Fandorin novel and I like it as much as the first, Winter Queen. It is fast-moving and complex. I have now learned to pay attention to all the details and it is fun to look for characters from the previous books (readers new to the Fandorin series should read the books in sequence: 1. Winter Queen 2. Turkish Gambit 3. Leviathan 4. Achilles). What I really liked was just as they get down to business solving this mystery, the author stops and embarks on a seemingly unconnected story about some "Achimas". This book within a book is Russian story-telling at its very best and allows you to catch your breath before Akunin dives back into the main plot and puts together all the pieces from two perspectives. Simply wonderful. As there are no more English translations, I will continue with this series in German.
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