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Murder on the Leviathan
By Boris Akunin

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Murder on the Leviathan
By Boris Akunin
English Translation by Andrew Bromfield
ISIS Large Print, (2005)
ISBN: 0-7531-7345-X
Genre: Mystery, Russian Fiction

Reviewed by Auggie Moore - May 4, 2005

Murder on the Leviathan is the third installment in Boris Akunin's acclaimed Erast Fandorin mystery series and the second Fandorin mystery to be translated into English. Like its predecessor, The Winter Queen, Murder on the Leviathan is a historical mystery that is set in 1878 . Witty, satirical, and written in a style reminiscent of Victorian serials, Murder on the Leviathan follows the adventures of Erast Fandorin, a young Moscow police officer turned diplomat. In this case, Fandorin joins forces with Gustav Gauche, a Paris Police commissioner, to solve a puzzling murder.

Gauche is hot on the trail of an unknown killer who entered the Littleby mansion and murdered Lord Littleby, along with ten other people. The only clue left behind is an emblem in the shape of a small golden whale. This 'key' leads Gauche to the Leviathan a steamship about to embark on its maiden voyage to Calcutta. Gauche is positive that the murderer is one of the passengers. Bound for Japan, Fandorin joins the ship in Egypt, and soon joins forces with Gauche to track down the killer in a story slightly akin to Agatha Christies' Death on the Nile.

Rich in historic details, this novel, which was originally written in Russian, parodies historical as well as modern cultural idiosyncrasies that surround those with wealth and the detective genre as a whole. The two detectives must weed through an enormous number of suspects, more than a hundred and forty-two in fact. Even after that number is narrow down to something a bit more manageable, the two detectives must still do a great deal of detective work to sort out the various eccentric characters and their histories. Worse, for Gauche, at least, Fandorin has a knack for quickly debunking each of Gauche's theories.

Murder on the Leviathan is a wonderful light read. Although written in an 'older' style, it is really a work of modern fiction - Akunin's first novel was published in 1998. It is his ability to write in a dated style that helps to clinch the illusion that his books were written by someone from the period in which they were set. In short, Murder on the Leviathan is a great whodunit!

Murder on the Leviathan was expertly translated into English by Andrew Bromfield. This is the third book in the series, however it was the second to be published in English. Both the first book in this series, The Winter Queen, and the second book, the Turkish Gambit, are now available in large print.


Murder on the Leviathan can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of ISIS Large Print.


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