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Turkish Gambit
By Boris Akunin

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Turkish Gambit
By Boris Akunin
Tranlsated by Andrew Bromfield
ISIS Large Print, 2005
ISBN: 0-7531-7473-1
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - March 20, 2006

Turkish Gambit is the second book in Boris Akunin's Fandorin mystery series, although it is the third book to be published in English. Akunin is the pen-name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, a Russian writer who is widely known for his work as a Japanese translator. The first book in this series is The Winter Queen, and the third is Murder on the Leviathan.

A war novel / mystery / thriller set in the late 1870's, the Turkish Gambit is a fast-paced, historically accurate novel that revolves around the Russo-Turkish war. In this thrilling addition to the series, a broken hearted Detective Erast Petrovich Fandorin has joined the diplomatic corps and volunteered for duty on the front. Mistakenly thinking that he is short on luck when he is captured by Turkish forces, Fandorin soon manages to win his freedom by winning a heart-pounding game of backgammon and then goes on to rescue Varvara Andreevna "Varya" Suvorova who was captured while on her way to the front to join her fiancé. When they reach the Russian camp, they discover that Suvorova's fiancé has been accused of treason and it falls upon Fandorin, aided by Suvorova to prove the young man's innocence. This is but the first of a number of cases that Fandorin is faced with within this complicated mystery and tale of espionage.

Atmosphere and historical accuracy aside, this is a smashing G. K. Chesterton styled mystery. The tale is complex, with lots of false leads to throw the reader off the trail. Fandorin is a wonderfully engaging detective, sort of a merging of Columbo and Miss Marple - a bit bumbling, often seen as ineffectual due to his appearance and attitude, but always on his toes. He is sharp witted, observant, and tenacious. Although he is unwillingly drawn into this adventure, once he is, he devotes all his skills and passion to solving the numerous problems that Akunin sets before him. Best of all, Akunin focuses the bulk of this story on Suvorova, providing a fascinating glimpse into the role and character of a progressive woman during this period.

Turkish Gambit was translated into English by Andrew Bromfield, and he expertly captured Akunin's narrative style and sense of adventure. This is a masterful story on all counts, and delightful to read! Part espionage novel and part love story, the Turkish Gambit is a captivating addition to the Fandorin series, and it helps to fill in some of the gaps that exist between the The Winter Queen and Murder on the Leviathan. There are ten books in this series, and I can't wait to read Fandorin's next adventure.

Turkish Gambit can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of ISIS Large Print.

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