Collegiate Assessor Erast Petrovich Fandorin meets his match when he investigates the death of a beloved Russian general.
Adjutant-General Michel Sobolev was so popular—the closest thing to a national hero Russia could boast in 1882—that he was nicknamed “the White General.” By a series of coincidences, his old acquaintance Fandorin (The Turkish Gambit, 2005, etc.) is on hand to assist the legions of official authorities when the 38-year-old general is suddenly found dead. Despite obvious indications of skullduggery, Sobolev apparently died of natural causes while he was in the throes of passion. So why has his death unleashed such violence? Avenging an attack on Masahiro Sibata, his Japanese manservant, by killing several lowlifes, Fandorin finds himself on the trail of a mysterious briefcase that’s disappeared from Sobolev’s hotel. He also becomes seriously at odds with the Tsar’s police and in the middle of some deep-laid political intrigue. His investigations in the first half of the novel are complemented by a long narrative that shows how a criminal mastermind came of age and accepted a commission to kill Sobolev. As the two adversaries draw closer to each other, Akunin also pauses long enough for nods to Gogol, Conan Doyle and The Pink Panther.
This time, however, the author’s trademark playfulness is subordinated to a relatively sober account that makes this the most straightforward, even conventional, of Fandorin’s adventures.