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Russian author Boris Akunin clearly delights in literary experimentation. The Winter Queen, his first novel to win U.S. release, was a police procedural, introducing a young but brilliant detective named Erast Petrovich Fandorin, serving in 1876 Moscow. However, Murder on the Leviathan (actually the third entry in the Fandorin series, but published second in the States) was quite different--an homage to formulaic Golden Age whodunits, taking place on a luxurious steamship. Now comes The Turkish Gambit, which is more a combination of war novel and romance, rather than crime fiction, with the majority of its mysteries so transparent as to barely merit the label.
The action here takes place in 1877 and 1878, on the Balkan front of a military conflict pitting tsarist Russia against the Ottoman Empire. Into this realm of posturing commanders and the foreign journalists whose florid prose makes those officers look better (or worse) than they really are ride Fandorin, now with the diplomatic corps, and Varya Suvorova, a strong-willed 22-year-old telegraphist hoping to reunite on the battlefield with her "future fiancé," an army volunteer. But Varya's efforts are frustrated when her intended is accused of espionage. His release can only be won by identifying the real informant-cum-saboteur, in which task Varya is willing to cooperate with Fandorin, despite her dislike of the stuttering and apparently "cold, disagreeable" former policeman. Amid profuse digressions concerning Turkish politics, female suffrage, and the harem system ("without it many women would quite simply starve to death"), Varya--trailed by lustful correspondents--investigates a suspicious colonel in Bucharest, only to become party to a deadly duel. A pair of officers are subsequently murdered, a guilt-ridden soldier hangs himself, and a British plot against Russia is alleged.
Akunin (the pseudonym of Grigory Chkhartishvili) nimbly portrays the tumultuous atmosphere of 19th-century combat, complete with ear-splitting cannon blasts and hard-charging cossacks. His dialogue is frequently clever, and in Varya he has created a woman fully capable of steering yarns and stopping hearts. Yet The Turkish Gambit is so laden with expendable exchanges, trivial players, and hieings off to hither and yon, that the reader's interest may wane well short of this story's dramatic climax. --J. Kingston Pierce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
If chatty digressions on love and war tend to slow the third Erast Fandorin historical to appear in the U.S. (after 2004's Murder on the Leviathan), Russian author Akunin does a superb job of rendering the immediacy of battle in the 1877–1878 conflict between the Motherland and Turkey, and illuminating the politics behind czarist fantasies of recapturing Constantinople. At the Balkan front, the quiet, stuttering Fandorin befriends Varya Suvorova, a midwife turned telegraphist. Varya is bent on visiting her court-martialed fiancé, who's accused of being a spy. Fandorin and Varya are soon caught up in the fortunes of the Russian army, which a well-placed mole seems intent on betraying. Suspicions point to various Russian staff officers and to some glamorous foreign correspondents, including Seamus McLaughlin from London's Daily Post and Michel Paladin from the Revue Parisienne. Codes, courtesans and love letters all come into play, as well as murder and suicide in combat, in a plot more complex than some West Point battle plans. While the plethora of minor characters can be confusing, the quirky Fandorin and determined Varya stand out amid the turmoil of their surroundings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Great series to read. Learn a lot about history and the main character is great.Published 3 months ago by D. Huff
Few people know much about the Russian/Ottoman conflicts, so this is a timely book about an essential area that resonates with today's headlines, but conveys historical background. Read morePublished 7 months ago by James Kenney
A real Turkish delight!
Anything you want from a Fandorin thriller, suspense, humor, amazing insight and a bit of tragedy
Do not leave unread!
The Fandorin nysteries continue. But, whereas in the first book (The Winter Queen) we experienced everything through Fandorin's eyes, learning each clue to the puzzle at the same... Read morePublished 9 months ago by Amazon Customer
Like many of the previous reviews, I enjoyed the setting (Russo-Turkish War) and find the comparisons to the Flashman series apt, albeit without Flashy's "love interests"... Read morePublished 10 months ago by kara telpek
Good, fast-paced historical fiction. If you like the genre, don't miss this one.Published 15 months ago by E. Adams
This was the least entertaining of the Fandorin books that I have read. The book had a weak plot with very little presence of the delightful titular consular Fandorin. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Chris J
Akunin is a good writer and I like the simple way that he develops the history. It has a good sense of humor which I enjoyed very much. Read morePublished 21 months ago by Amazon Customer