Summary and book reviews of The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen

A Novel

By Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: May 2003,
    256 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2004,
    264 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Chapter One
In which an account is rendered of a certain cynical escapade

On Monday the fifteenth of May in the year 1876, between the hours of two and three in the afternoon on a day that combined the freshness of spring with the warmth of summer, numerous individuals in Moscow's Alexander Gardens unexpectedly found themselves eyewitnesses to the perpetration of an outrage that flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency.

The public strolling the alleyways between blossoming lilac bushes and flower beds ablaze with the flaming scarlet blooms of tulips was smartly decked out: ladies holding aloft lacework parasols (to avert the threat of freckles), nannies minding children in neat little sailor suits, and young men affecting an air of boredom in fashionable cheviot frock coats or jackets cut in the short English fashion. With nothing apparently portending any disagreeable turn of events, a lazy satisfaction and gratifying tedium suffused the atmosphere, mingling...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Confronted by an epidemic of suicides amongst his young countrymen, Erast Fandorin tells the highly experienced detective Xavier Grushin that "The very best of the educated young people are simply giving up on life—they're suffocated by a lack of spiritual oxygen." Explain the tension between the new and old generations in the novel, and why Fandorin thinks "living in your world makes us young people feel sick." How and why have aspirations—for career, money, public honors—changed for the disenchanted youth?

  2. What is the meaning of the code word "Azazel," and how does this rebellious demon figure in the anarchists' ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Alan Furst
Elaborate, intricate, profoundly Czarist, and Russian to its bones, as though Tolstoy had sat down to write a murder mystery and came out with The Winter Queen. A wondrous strange and appealing novel, and not quite like anything you've read before.

Author Blurb Kevin Baker
Atmospheric and engrossing, The Winter Queen is a historical thriller from the world of the czar. Boris Akunin is Russia's answer to Caleb Carr.

Author Blurb Anne Perry
Mystery readers should enjoy this story. It is as Russian, and as international, as caviar and vodka! A crafty tale full of atmosphere, character, and action. I look forward to hearing more about the young detective Erast Fandorin.

Library Journal Barbara Hoffert

The Moscow-based Akunin is a best-selling author internationally, and it's easy to see why his American debut is atmospheric, smartly plotted, and driven by a host of finely etched characters....Erast follows the breathtaking (but blessedly convincing) twists and turns of his investigation...Highly recommended for public libraries.

Reader Reviews
YAH! Read this book!

A-MAY-ZIN
I can't wait to read the next book. I thought the ending was kind of dismal but that just leads to suspense for the next book. I recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries, suspense, and a little play in romance. This book is definitely a ...   Read More

Ms.Arabia

A writer worth diamonds
The way Akunin writes makes you want to read more, unfortunatly only two of his novels were translated to english and I doubt there are any arabic translations, so my journey with his writings is suspended.

Lemmy

To me, Russian writer Akunin is one of the best writers of all time and his Fandorin series are extremely exciting and refreshing to read. If only more authors could write so well.
If you want to know what people in Europe & Russia are reading ...   Read More

roberto pietro

The Winter Queen is intricate, whitty, clever, and intelligent. The retro atmospherics and international color are great stuff. Akunin invests the mystery genre with literary qualities. Light fiction, but very fine. For some reason only two of his ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Winter Queen, try these:

  • A Vengeful Longing jacket

    A Vengeful Longing

    by R. N. Morris

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Following in the footsteps of the highly acclaimed novel The Gentle Axe, featuring the detective Porfiry Petrovich in another atmospheric and gripping slice of nineteenth-century Russia

  • A Visible Darkness jacket

    A Visible Darkness

    by Michael Gregorio

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Dark, intelligent, and vividly written, A Visible Darkness continues a masterful series of historical mysteries that portray a past torn between nationalism and humanism, superstition and science.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...
  • Book Jacket: Hyde
    Hyde
    by Daniel Levine
    In Robert Louis Stevenson's 1886 novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the story ends ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.