Excerpt from The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Winter Queen

A Novel

by Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2003, 256 pages
    Mar 2004, 264 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Then something utterly fantastic happened.

"Ah! So I am rejected!" the young man squealed in counterfeit despair, covering his eyes theatrically with one hand and swiftly extracting from his inside pocket a small revolver of gleaming black steel. "What meaning has life for me after this? A single word from you and I live. A single word from you and I die where I stand!" he appealed to the young girl, who was sitting there herself more dead than alive. "You say nothing? Then farewell!"

The sight of a gentleman gesticulating with a gun could not fail to attract the attention of the promenading public. Several of those who happened to be close at hand—a stout lady holding a fan, a pompous gentleman with a cross of the Order of St. Anne hanging around his neck, two girls from boarding school in identical brown frocks with pelerines—froze on the spot, and some student or other even halted on the pavement on the far side of the railings. In short, there was reason to hope that the scandalous incident would rapidly be brought to a close.

What followed, however, occurred too rapidly for anyone to intervene.

"Here's to luck!" cried the drunk—or, perhaps, the madman. Then he raised the hand holding the revolver high above his head, spun the cylinder, and set the muzzle to his temple.

"You clown! You motley buvfoon!" whispered the valiant German matron, demonstrating a quite respectable knowledge of colloquial Russian.

The young man's face, already pale, turned gray and green by turns. He bit his lower lip and squeezed his eyes tight shut. The girl closed her eyes, too, just to be on the safe side.

It was as well she did so, for it spared her a horrendous sight. When the shot rang out, the suicide's head was instantly jerked to one side and a thin fountain of red and white matter spurted from the exit wound just below his left ear.

The ensuing scene defies description. The German matron gazed around her indignantly as if calling on everyone to witness this unimaginable outrage, and then set up a bloodcurdling squealing, adding her voice to the screeching of the schoolgirls and the stout lady, who had been emitting piercing shrieks for several seconds. The young girl lay there in a dead swoon. She had half opened her eyes for barely an instant before immediately going limp. People came running up from every side, but it was all too much for the delicate nerves of the student who had been standing beyond the railings, and he took to his heels, fleeing across the roadway in the direction of Mokhovaya Street.

Xavier Feofilaktovich Grushin, detective superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Police, sighed in relief as he set aside the summary report on the previous day's serious crimes, adding it to the Out pile on his left. During the previous twenty-four hours nothing of any note that required the intervention of the Division had occurred in any of the twenty-four police precincts in this city of 600,000 inhabitants: there was one murder resulting from a drunken brawl between factory hands (the murderer was apprehended at the scene), two cabdrivers had been robbed (the local stations could take care of those), and 7,853 rubles had gone missing from the till at the Russo-Asian Bank (that was a matter for Anton Semyonovich at the commercial fraud department). Thank God they'd stopped sending Grushin's department all those petty incidents of pickpocketing and maids who hanged themselves and abandoned infants; nowadays those all went into the Police Municipal Incidents Report that was distributed to the departments in the afternoons.

Xavier Grushin yawned comfortably and glanced over the top of his tortoiseshell pince-nez at Erast Petrovich Fandorin, clerk and civil servant fourteenth class, who was writing out the weekly report to His Excellency the chief of police for the third time. Never mind, thought Grushin. Let him get into neat habits early; he'll be grateful for it later. The very idea of it—scraping away with a steel nib on a report for the top brass. Oh, no, my friend, you just take your time and do it the good old-fashioned way with a goose quill, with all the curlicues and flourishes. His Excellency was raised in Emperor Nicholas I's day; he knows all about good order and respect for superiors.

Excerpted from The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin Copyright© 2003 by Boris Akunin. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Of Arms and Artists
    Of Arms and Artists
    by Paul Staiti
    In the late eighteenth-century, the United States of America was still an emerging country, ...
  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Les Parisiennes
    by Anne Sebba

    How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died under Nazi occupation.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.