Special Assignments

Written by Andrew Bromfield (trans.) Boris Akunin
Review by Lucinda Byatt

In this latest addition to the Erast Fandorin series, Akunin offers his international fans a double dose of intriguing and absolutely unputdownable novellas entitled “The Jack of Spades” and “The Decorator”. They introduce us to a cast of new characters, including one Anisii Tulipov who becomes Fandorin’s promising young assistant for the short period of time covered by the two stories. Fandorin’s lessons to his sparky assistant reveal some of the intriguing psychology underlying his detective powers. Another link between these two contrasting tales, one of a prankster and the other of a maniacal serial killer, is their adopted pseudonym: Jack. To say more would be to give too much away, but those readers who are already fans of the Moscow-based detective will be delighted, and new ones, like myself, shouldn’t wait a moment longer. In an old interview, Grigory Chkhartishvili (aka Boris Akunin) stated, “I don’t want to be a teacher of life. I want to be an entertainer. It’s enough for me.” Well, this was real entertainment, in cracking style.