Lovers of death

Red Square, Moscow. 1900
She Lover of Death is the eighth volume in Boris Akunin's fun Russian detective series featuring the Sherlock Holmes of Moscow, Erast Fandorin. I read the first book a little while ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. She Lover of Death is very good, but perhaps not the best in the series to read if you're coming to it cold. If it wasn't that I knew in advance that it was an Erast Fandorin adventure I would have been hard placed to work out who he was in this novel.

Not that it actually matters greatly, this is a wonderful pastiche of those rip-roaring adventure stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Sherlock Holmes influence is obvious, but there's also Saxe Rohmer (most definitely), Edgar Wallace, Ian Fleming, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The novel opens as a young provincial girl arrives in Moscow to seek her fortune. Desperate to become a sophisticated Muscovite, she joins a secret society beloved of poets. This society though has many secrets, the primary one being that it is actually a suicide club. As a wave of suicides sweeps through the youth of Moscow, Fandorin seeks to infiltrate the society, but can he stop the evil genius behind it in his tracks before the country girl becomes the suicide wave's latest victim?

This is a smashing fun adventure tale, told with great humour, and at a breathless pace. As with any classic adventure story there are fabulous over-the-top villains, attractive heroes, gadgets galore - including an early Russian ejector seat - and a truly creepy atmosphere. There's no great depth to the tale, and the characterisation is often fairly superficial but it really doesn't matter. This is a great light read, a gripping adventure told with humour. What more could you want for a rainy Sunday?


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