Summary and book reviews of The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen

A Novel

by Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen
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  • First Published:
    May 2003, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2004, 264 pages

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Book Summary

In this thrilling mystery that brings nineteenth-century Russia to vivid life, Akunin has created one of the most eagerly anticipated novels in years.

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' ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

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.

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.

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

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