Readers who think State Counsellor Erast Petrovich Fandorin has encountered every kind of criminal plot imaginable (He Lover of Death, 2010, etc.) can cheer him as he matches wits with a problem both more traditional and more modern: a cabal of up-to-the-minute terrorists in czarist Russia.
Security is tight around Adjutant Gen. Ivan Fyodorovich Khrapov’s journey to Siberia, where he’s been rusticated after ordering a teenage political activist flogged. So the code-named Green, one of the activist’s allies in the Combat Group, comes up with the novel idea of masquerading as Fandorin in order to get close enough to Khrapov during one of his few scheduled stops to assassinate him. The real Fandorin first hears about the case when he’s arrested for murder. Very quickly, however, he’s out and about, partnering with the likes of Pyotr Ivanovich Burlyaev, head of Moscow’s Department of Security, and Prince Gleb Georgievich Pozharsky, Deputy Director of the Police Department, to track down the assassin. Apart from czarist oppression, the Combat Group faces more acute problems of its own: a large sum of its operating funding has been filched, and Green and his mates need to stage a daring theft to replenish their coffers. After a pleasurable fling with Esfir Litvinova, a banker’s revolutionary daughter, Fandorin inevitably ends up in the Combat Group’s sights; just as inevitably, his supposed allies, double-crossing careerists and double-crossing traitors to a man, are a lot less reliable than he’d like.
Through every twist and turn, both Akunin and his hero maintain an imperturbable decorum that makes this the most ceremonious tale of terrorism and counterterrorism you’re ever likely to read.