Bob bashed Boris at Book Club tonight!


What a rollicking fun discussion we had this evening of Boris Akunin’s The Winter Queen, soon to be a movie scheduled for a 2012 release. My book club is comprised of an eclectic sort of independent intellectuals who tend to work in the world of non-fiction and want to read more fiction; books they should have read years ago. Books like Charles Portis’ True Grit.

Bob chose True Grit for the group’s reading pleasure before the holidays. Carolyn, his wife, selected The Winter Queen, based in part on the reviews which make comparisons to Tolstoy writing detective mystery.

Give me a break. There’s no Tolstoy in Boris Akunin’s series based on Erast Fandorin.

As for a mystery, Bob and Melissa complained about the characters who just dropped out of sight and all the loose ends the author left untied.

And what motivated Lady Astair in her dastardly plot for global domination? Bad mommy syndrome? Erast Fandorin is himself an orphan who did not experience the luxurious treatment found in Lady Astair’s institutions. Could that many of her former students really be “plants” in a global cabal?

And did Lady Astair really die in the explosion? We needed to reexamine the evidence as Boris Akkunin presented it. Many of us doubted it. The clues lie in Erast Fandorin’s close examination of the penmanship of both Lady Astair and Amahlia.

Whoa, I said. It seems it was as much a parody and commentary on the genre of detective mystery as Charles Portis’ piece was about the great American western. Really, the novel reads like the game of Clue. It’s fun. And funny. American roulette? That’s funny.

Kind of a cheesy Soviet crime novel set in historic czarist Russia. For us high falutin folk, there was some very frank, even profane language used to describe this pulp detective novel.

Bob really debased the book best when he said ….. No, I can’t say that here. What I can say is there is great joy taken in the difference in opinions found among members of a great book club.

Not to ruin anyone else’s reading of this book, Bob was the first to ask how plausible this following scenario is:

“You are alone with your one true love and someone delivers a package to your door and runs away down the street counting down eight, seven, six, five…. What do you do? Throw the package out the window to save your and your bride or jump out the window and run after the delivery person?”

The comic ineptitude of detective Erast Fandorin is funny because it is rewarded with clues and the solution to the “crime” of an apparent suicide.  It’s the Soviet version of Dumb and Dumber.

Boris Akunin is a Soviet superstar novelist in the genre of mystery. His popularity may not make him a Tolstoy anymore than the celebrities dancing on American television reality show competitions make them Barishinokovs. A fun read? Yes. But not to be taken so seriously just because he’s Soviet.

All of us searched for that sense of Soviet nihilim we expected in a writer of this generation doing historical detective fiction. The suicides were not so clearly acts of self-murder as an honor game among men for a vixen. The plot resembles an inverse story of the Manchurian Candidate and I can see Angela Lansbury in the role of Lady Astair easily.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, but I also enjoyed as much talking about the book who also read it.

We’re scheduled to read a book called, My Name is Red, by a pulitzer prize winning Turkish author. 

For a book about nihilism in the American experience, I plan to review American Rust by Phillip Meyer tomorrow. I finished it and it’s being weighing on my mind….

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Filed under Good Fiction, Just one good reader

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