Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The great library challenge: Akunin, Boris Turkish Gambit

Posted by lea at 4:02 PM
The first author of the alphabet is now down, with Boris Akunin's Turkish Gambit complete and under my belt. Actually, I just found out his real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili, so perhaps he should've been my 'C' author.

I mentioned previously that Akunin had been compared with other Russian literary greats like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. The similarity for me as a reader was in that I wanted to skip all the war bits and get down to the human drama. I'm not sure if T or D would have written political crime fiction if they'd been alive today, but if they did, I'm guessing there would have been less swashbuckling action and more human tragedy.

Instead, what we get in Turkish Gambit is Erast Fandorin, a 'gentleman sleuth' in the epicentre of war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, surrounded by intrigue, espionage, and a strong-willed and spirited young Russian woman, Varvara  Suvorova. In fact, there's so much political intrigue that it's sometimes hard to follow.

Turkish Gambit is part three of a series of Erast Fandorin novels by Akunin, and knowing this, I now wish he'd intruded more in the narrative than he does. I like what I've glimpsed of him so far – super-cluey, intelligent, modest to a fault and highly respected – sounds like my kind of guy. In this book, he's the modest hero who does the grunt work, while the story is told from the point of view of Varvara, who has journeyed to the Balkan front to reunite with her fiance, a war telegrapher who is wrongly jailed.

The ending is a little... unsatisfying, but the story resolves of its own volition, thanks to the hero. Also thanks to the hero, Russian crime lit has just gone up in my radar.

Now, onto B. I've chosen Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell, apparently an 'ice cold and ferocious read'. Is it really? I'll let you know.


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