He Lover of Death

Written by Boris Akunin
Review by Sarah Bower

In the latest Erast Fandorin mystery, the resourceful orphan, Senka, a sort of Muscovite Artful Dodger, has his life changed irrevocably when he falls in love with Death, mistress of The Prince, the most feared bandit in Khitrovka, and so named because every man who loves her goes to an early grave. He joins The Prince’s gang to get close to her, but finds himself involved in a series of gruesome murders and a hunt for a legendary treasure. Enter Fandorin and Masa to unravel the mysteries and save Senka from a grisly end.

This is my first Fandorin mystery, and I could have done with a potted biography of the great investigator and his Oriental sidekick to help with the many allusions to their earlier cases. This is a minor quibble, however, and hardly affected my huge enjoyment of this romp through the underworld of early 20th-century Moscow which mixes elements of Conan Doyle, Ian Fleming and Quentin Tarantino into a flaming Molotov cocktail of romance, violence and black comedy.

Tremendous fun, but not recommended as bedtime reading as it will have you tossing and turning all night wondering how the ingenious Fandorin will recover the treasure, save the ingénue Senka from The Prince and his own heart from the ultimate femme fatale. Oh, and he has to win an automobile race from Moscow to Paris as well.