I was reading ‘Not a Penny more, Not a Penny less’ earlier and I had a nasty hunch that the book would take away a lucky streak of good books that I was running before that – The Angel’s Game, The End of Mr.Y, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Quite Ugly One Morning.
It did. The plot was a wafer thin, see through deux-ex-machina. Totally broke the rhythm. I started this book after ‘Not a Penny…’ in hopes of starting another good run.
I am happy to report that The Winter Queen did bounce me back. However, there were a couple of things that kept me from going as high as the last good run. Maybe it’ll get better with the next book I get my hands on.
Unlike ‘Not a Penny…’, the language and the plot construction here is very good! Boris Akunin sets the voice a little sarcastic of the extreme formalism and of the red-tape that symbolize any “for the people” communist government (also representative of the management echelons of any modern day corporate house). He brings out humour in the most unusual situations and makes you smile in new and interesting ways, all through maintaining a language that sounds faux-heavy and mockingly self-serious.
** spoiler alert **
Fandorin, the detective protagonist works for the government, a “public servant”. He is a black sheep in a system, where its a taboo being one! And despite all the bother of his situation, Erast Fandorin, through a series of humurous events, manages to make glorious progress (in his career). It really had me rooting for the protagonist in a very refreshing way.
The hook of the book, that involves solving small mysteries which lead to the main one works very well! It kept my interest alive till about half the book, by which time I was totally hooked! A very well executed plot indeed.
Now for the small bother I have with the book. It became a little run-of-the-mill mundane in a couple of places. In a book that is this new and innovative, these situations stand out like Fandorin’s mustache in London. Cultural idiosyncrasies carry a lot more weight than dramatic escapades when our Russian hero is out locking horns with evil in London, a place he’s never been to before.
The other trifle-stifle is the denouement of the mystery. It almost led me to the resumption of my disbelief. A dangerous situation. I attribute it to the translation though and to my lack of cultural understanding of the Russia the novel talks about. The end is meant to inspire awe and make one marvel at the enormity of the Goliath our David was facing. It falls a little flat and tests the reader’s suspension of disbelief a little too hard. I suspect it is the English translation of things that causes the book to loose it’s whip.
But, at the very end, the very end when Fandorin says goodbye to his youth. It turns to solid gold again. I have purchased three other Fandorin mysteries, in hopes of similar, if not better enjoyment. There are so many possibilities! 🙂
Also, on a related note, I feel confident that with a sharp eye and a happy heart, this novel can be transformed into a very engaging film.