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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

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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