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SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS
by Boris Akunin
Random House, February 2008
352 pages
$14.00
ISBN: 0812978609


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS is also called the Further Adventures of Erast Fandorin as it covers two of his investigations. These adventures are with a new assistant, the timid, unattractive, unlucky young policeman, Anisii Tulipov.

After Tulipov is happily blessed with making the acquaintance of the talented and internationally renowned policeman and sleuth Fandorin, who, for no reason that can be seen, takes a liking to the ungainly Tulipov. Fandorin invites him to be his new assistant, thereby brightening the man's life to the highest degree. Tulpilov then becomes the always learning and questioning assistant to the wealthy and intelligent, socially gifted policeman, Fandorin.

The first case they have is to catch the man who has taken to leaving a card, the Jack of Spades, at each of his swindles. The thief is an intelligent confidence man of the highest caliber, able to insert himself into any situation, using false wigs, hair dyes, turbans, accents and a fast mind to ingratiate himself with both the public and with special wealthy people in order to steal a lot of money from them all and to get away clean.

That is, of course, until he steals from Fandorin's superior, Prince Dolgorukoi. That's when the talented Fandorin is set on finding the thief with varying degrees of success. This section of the book is a light story where sly humor is used both on the thief and on Fandorin himself.

The second part of SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS is very different from the first story. It is the story of the hunt for a new killer on the streets of Russia. This killer is known as 'the Decorator' who horribly slaughters victims, who are mostly women of low class from the most downcast section of society. The killer slays in the most vicious of ways but the readers get to read some of the killer's thoughts, so we see that the killer thinks that the deaths have a high calling and that by murdering and mutilating the victims a great good is being done for society.

This section of the book hasn't any of the lightness of the first part. Along with the viciousness of the deaths, the story does its best to attack the poor readers and pulls them into a heartbreaking story. I don't want to say too much or I might give something away in this violent and perfectly plotted mystery tale.

Many details are given in the book to help the readers feel as if they are indeed living in 19th century Russia. The readers also get to hear what's going on in the rest of the world (The Eiffel Tower goes up amid questions of whether it can withstand the winds) so we all become citizens of this time period.

SPECIAL ASSIGNMENTS shows the writer, Boris Akunin, to be a talented author. I've read one other book of his and I didn't enjoy it as much as I did this one.

Reviewed by A. L. Katz, January 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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