Random House, Feb 2008, $13.95
“The Jack of Spades”. The conman is brilliant as he tricks government officials. Embarrassed to be taken in, most prefer to say nothing about their foolishness; a few are outraged but their descriptions of this master thief never match in the slightest except for the same calling card the felon leaves behind. The Moscow Governor-General assigns his deputy for special assignments the great detective Erast Fandorin to end this brazen criminal’s activity. Fandorin takes on pathetic Anisii Tulipov as his assistant as they battle in a game of wits with a master opponent.
“The Decorator”. In 1889 someone is killing the prostitutes of Moscow. Fandorin believes to his deepest concern that the Modus Operendi is identical to what he has heard about the Ripper case in London. He hopes to have better success than his English counterparts in bringing Jack to justice as Fandorin bases his chances as better because he brings different values and preconceptions than the Bobbies to the hunt.
These are two terrific investigative Tsarist era police procedurals as those who already have met Fandorin (see THE WINTER QUEEN and THE TURKISH GAMBIT) know he is the Russian Sherlock Holmes with Tulipov as the Muscovite Watson. The tales showcase the vast talent of Boris Akunin as they are incredibly different in tone with The Jack of Spades being lighthearted and amusing so much so that the hero enjoys the game while The Decorator is dark and tense with the hero forced to cross ethics line to stop the serial killer. These are two strong works in one of the best historical mystery series on the market today.