The Russian Sherlock Holmes.
What is the Erast Fandorin series about?
Written by Boris Akunin, Erast Petrovich Fandorin is a 19th-century Russian hero in a series of Russian historical detective novels.
Orphaned at the age of nineteen, he was left with only debts and had to abandon his education to enter the police force as a clerk. He is an inexperienced detective when we meet him, and will rise from the rank.
Described as a master of disguise, Fandorin has a small mustache, blue eyes, and black hair. He is a gifted linguist, exceptionally lucky, and can be quite popular with the opposite sex.
How to read the Erast Fandorin Books in Order?
Every book in the Erast Fandorin series works as a standalone story, but the lives of the different characters evolve from one novel to the other.
- The Winter Queen – Moscow 1876. A 23-year-old law student commits suicide in broad daylight in Moscow’s Alexander Gardens. Erast Fandorin is put on the case to find out what drove him to it, a case that deepens as he discovers that the young man was the son of a rich and influential factory owner.
- The Turkish Gambit – Bulgaria, 1877. The Russo-Turkish war is at a critical juncture, and Erast Fandorin has gone to the front in an attempt to forget his sorrows. But Fandorin’s efforts to steer clear of trouble are thwarted when he comes to the aid of Varvara Suvorova – a ‘progressive’ Russian woman trying to make her way to the Russian headquarters to join her fiancé. Within days, Varvara’s fiancé has been accused of treason, a Turkish victory looms on the horizon, and there are rumors of a Turkish spy hiding within their own camp. Our reluctant gentleman sleuth will need to resurrect all of his dormant powers of detection if he is to unmask the traitor, help the Russians to victory and smooth the path of young love.
- Murder on the Leviathan – On 15th March 1878 Lord Littleby, an English eccentric and collector, is found murdered in his Paris house together with nine members of his staff. A gold whale in the victim’s hand leads Erast Fandorin to board the Leviathan, the world’s largest steamship, as the murderer is one of the 142 first-class passengers. Commissioner Gauche of the French police has narrowed down the suspects to ten, and they are forced to eat together at every mealtime in the ship’s Windsor Suite until ‘the Crime of the Century’ is solved. But is the murderer really at the table, and can Erast Fandorin discover his or her identity before Gauche?
- The Death of Achilles – Erast Fandorin returns to Moscow after an absence of six years, only to find himself instantly embroiled in court politics and scandal. His old friend General Sobolev has been found dead in a hotel room, and Fandorin suspects foul play. Using his now-famous powers of detection, Fandorin embarks on an investigation, during which the political and the personal may become dangerously blurred. With the assistance of some formidable martial arts skills, acquired whilst Fandorin was in Japan, our eccentric and ingenious hero must endeavor to discover not so much whodunit, as why…
- Special Assignments – Boris Akunin’s well-loved, inimitable hero faces two very different adversaries: one, a deft, comedic swindler and master of disguise, whose machinations send ripples spreading through the carefully maintained calm of Moscow in 1886. The other is a brutal serial killer, driven by an insane, maniacal obsession, who strikes terror into the heart of the Moscow slums in 1889 – and who may have more in common with London’s own Jack the Ripper than simply a taste for women of easy virtue.
- The State Counsellor – General Khrapov, newly appointed Governor-General of Siberia and soon-to-be Minister of the Interior, is murdered in his official saloon carriage on his way from St Petersburg to Moscow. The killer, disguised as Fandorin, leaves a knife thrust up to the hilt in his victim’s chest and escapes through the window of the carriage. Can Fandorin escape suspicion? This is a battle of wills and ideals, revolutionaries and traditionalists and good versus evil.
- The Coronation – Grand Duke Georgii Alexandrovich arrives in Moscow for the coronation, with three of his children. During an afternoon stroll, daughter Xenia is dragged away by bandits, only to be rescued by an elegant gentleman and his oriental sidekick. The passing heroes introduce themselves as Fandorin and Masa, but panic ensues when they realize that four-year old Mikhail has been snatched in the confusion. A ransom letter arrives from an international criminal demanding the handover of Count Orlov, an enormous diamond on the royal scepter which is due to play a part in the coronation. Can the gentleman detective find Mikhail in time?
- She Lover of Death – There’s been rising concern in Moscow over a wave of suicides among the city’s young bohemians. An intrepid newspaper reporter, Zhemailo, begins to uncover the truth behind the phenomenon – that the victims are linked by a secret society, the Lovers of Death. But Zhemailo is not the only investigator hot on the heels of these disciples of the occult. Little do they realize that the latest ‘convert’ to their secret society, assuming the alias of a Japanese prince, is none other than Erast Fandorin. But when a young and naïve provincial woman, Masha Mironova, becomes embroiled in the society, and Zhemalio dies a mysterious death, Fandorin must do more than merely infiltrate and observe.
- He Lover of Death – Senka Skorikov has been abandoned to the murky world of Moscow’s gangster district. While picking a pocket or two, he glimpses the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, and joins the gang of her overlord lover, The Prince, so desperate he is to meet her. Senka climbs the criminal ranks to gradually capturing the heart of his beloved Death – so named for the life expectancy of her lovers. But as the bandit community balks at his success on both fronts, threats on his life begin to pour in. A dandy and his ‘Chinese’ sidekick seem to be taking an inordinate interest in Senka’s welfare. Fandorin must unweave a tangled web of narcotics, false identities, and organized crime – but can he survive an encounter with the ever-alluring Death unscathed?
- The Diamond Chariot – The first of the interlinked plotlines is set in Russia during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Fandorin is charged with protecting the Trans-Siberian Railway from Japanese sabotage in a pacy adventure filled with double agents and ticking bombs. Then we travel back to the Japan of the late 1870s. This is the story of Fandorin’s arrival and life in Yokohama, his first meeting with Masa and the martial arts education that came in so handy later. He investigates the death of a Russian ship-captain, fights for a woman, exposes double-agents in the Japanese police, fights against, and then with the ninjas, and becomes embroiled in a shocking finale that interweaves the two stories and ties up the series as a whole.
- Ying and Yan – is a play by Boris Akunin not translated in english. placed shortly after Fandorin’s return from Japan.
- Jade Rosary Beads – A collection of three novellas and seven short stories, set between 1881 and 1900. Not translated in english yet.
- All The World’s A Stage – Eliza Altairsky-Lointaine is the toast of Moscow society, a beautiful actress in an infamous theatre troupe. Her love life is as colourful as the parts she plays. She is the estranged wife of a descendant of Genghis Khan. And her ex-husband has threatened to kill anyone who courts her. He appears to be making good on his promise. Fandorin is contacted by concerned friend – the widowed wife of Chekhov – who asks him to investigate an alarming incident involving Eliza. But when he watches Eliza on stage for the first time, he falls desperately in love. Can he solve the case – and win over Eliza – without attracting the attentions of the murderer he is trying to find?
- Black City – Crimea, 1914. When the Tzar’s head of security is assassinated, Erast Fandorin is called to investigate: the killer has been overheard mentioning a ‘black city’ so Fandorin and his trusty companion, Masa, head to Baku, the burgeoning Russian capital of oil. But from the moment they arrive in the city, they realise someone is watching their every move, and they will stop at nothing to derail their investigation. Having suffered a brutal attack and with Masa’s life hanging by a thread, Fandorin is forced to rely on the help of an unexpected new ally, and he begins to suspect the plot might be part of something larger – and much more sinister.
- Planet Water – A collection of three stories set between 1903 and 1912. Not translated in english yet.
- Not Saying Goodbye – Russia, 1918. The young Soviet state is in turmoil. Chekists walk along the streets. Hunger, cold and mud crawl away in the former aristocratic quarters of Moscow. The old order has been turned upside down, leaving room for political infighting and dark subterfuge.This is the world Erast Fandorin – the celebrated detective – wakes up to after three years in a coma. His faithful assistant Masa might have nursed him successfully back to life, but there is no guarantee that the old Fandorin, with his razor-sharp intellect and superhuman strength, will ever be back. Determined to leave behind Moscow – a city he doesn’t recognize anymore – Fandorin embarks on one last great adventure. But who can he trust in a country torn apart by civil war?
If you like Erast Fandorin, you may also want to see our Sherlock Holmes reading order, or our guide to Hercule Poirot stories. Don’t hesitate to follow us on Twitter or Facebook to discover more book series.