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akunin's plot thickens

Published: June 18, 2004 (Issue # 978)



  • Akunin: Now available in English
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

Boris Akunin's thrillers have sold more than eight million copies in Russia to date. U.S. publishers hope to cash in on his success.

In most respects, Erast Fandorin is an exemplary specimen of the late 19th century. Though he is only 22 years old and in exceptional health, he never fails to take a walking stick out for his midday stroll. Supper with company demands a starched white collar and a red carnation in the buttonhole. A cigar requires a small silver knife for cutting off the tip. And so on.

But Fandorin, the dapper detective of Boris Akunin's bestselling novels, is a century ahead of his time when it comes to putting two and two together. While strategists these days turn to digital PowerPoint displays to help them organize their thoughts, Fandorin does it without external support, introducing each piece of evidence in order of logical deduction and then stamping it with the no-nonsense bullet point: "That is one ... That is two ... That is three."

Fandorin picks up this habit as a rookie sleuth from a clever (though, ultimately, too clever) superior in "The Winter Queen," or, as it's known locally, "Azazel," the inaugural installment in the crime series that has made Akunin one of the most widely read writers in Russia today. For a country whose underlying chaos never seems far from bubbling to the surface, the neat logic and packaged endings of Akunin's graceful mysteries have flourished like a wistful fantasy. "The main thing is not to rush things, not to jump to the wrong conclusion," Fandorin's superior tells him when introducing the deductive method. Clearly, there is something about this reasoning that appeals to Russians, who have snapped up more than eight million copies of Akunin's Fandorin books to date.

Hoping for a repeat of the Fandorin phenomenon abroad, Random House has timed the paperback release of "The Winter Queen," which came out in English translation by Andrew Bromfield last year, to coincide with the second Fandorin translation, "Murder on the Leviathan." If Western audiences bite, the publisher will have hit the jackpot; the adept and industrious Bromfield has another eight Fandorin mysteries waiting in the wings.

Analysts have spilled a considerable amount of ink explaining why Russians, heir to one of the world's most glorious literary traditions, have gone batty over Akunin's Fandorin mysteries. Literary purists group Akunin into the same heap of thriller writers - Alexandra Marinina, Daria Dontsova, Polina Dashkova - whose paperback books, with their lurid covers and luminescent type, light up Moscow's metro cars during rush hour traffic.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, July 31


Develop your leadership abilities during a lecture by famous Russian author and coach Radislav Gandapas. The event starts at 9 a.m. at 5 Lodeinopolskaya Ulitsa. The price for entry is 20,500 rubles ($570).


Relax and enjoy a Parisian atmosphere with some romantic and laidback jazz tunes during the Night of French Music at Lenny Jam Cafe, 63 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 250 rubles ($7).


The Women’s Business Club is hosting a Beauty Brunch where participants are invited to discuss the latest news in the beauty industry and listen to lectures by professional stylists in the business.



Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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