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The State Counsellor
Erast Fandorin, book 6

by Boris Akunin

      State Counsellor Erast Fandorin finds himself being framed for a murder he did not commit - that of unpopular General Khrapov. The general had formerly been the governor-general of Siberia (with all that implies), but he was on his way by train to take up his new post as minister for the interior when the deed was done. Fandorin finds himself up against not only the Okhrana (secret police) and all that implies, but pitting himself against the revolutionary who has impersonated him and - worse still - a beautiful woman.

It is always interesting to read a book set in another country which has been written by somebody who is actually from there. Somehow the matter-of-fact brutality of Akunin’s Okhrana seems more chilling and realistic than the hand-rubbing sadism that a non-Russian would feel they had to put in. Akunin is a good hand at descriptions, and snowy, pre-Revolution Russia with all its grandeur, rules and injustices comes to tactile life.

Fandorin remains aloof, lacking Holmes’ obvious passion for his art although allowing himself some amorous adventures from time to time. Unfortunately Akunin does not manage to bring anything new to the familiar tale of bomb-tossing terrorists led by a psychopath, a misguided woman and other hangers-on. This, at times, made the tale seem unoriginal and a little repetitive because we’ve read it all before, many times. However, the masterly portrait of Russia just before it changed forever lingers in the mind after the minutiae of the plot has faded, and it is this which makes the price of admission worth it.

The Book

Weidenfeld and Nicolson (Orion UK)
10 January 2008
Historical Crime / Early 20th century / Moscow and environs, Russia
More at UK
NOTE: Not available yet on Amazon US site
Some violence

The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008