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Boris Akunin's well-loved, inimitable hero faces two very different adversaries: one, a deft, comedic swindler and master of disguise, whose machinations send ripples spreading through the carefully maintained calm of Moscow in 1886. The other is a brutal serial killer, driven by an insane, maniacal obsession, who strikes terror into the heart of the Moscow slums in 1889 - and who may have more in common with London's own Jack the Ripper than simply a taste for women of easy virtue.
In this thrilling collection of two novellas, Akunin (The Winter Queen) pits Erast Fandorin, his brilliant Russian detective who serves as the deputy for special assignments to the governor-general of czarist Moscow, against two different but equally deadly foes. In the comical "The Jack of Spades," Fandorin finds a Watsonian sidekick in Anisii Tulipov, a luckless and overeducated errand boy whose life changes when Fandorin takes him under his wing. The pair must face a cunning con man and thief, reminiscent of the great French antihero, Ars ne Lupin. Things take a darker turn in "The Decorator," when Fandorin fears that Jack the Ripper is continuing his slaughter of prostitutes, this time in 1889 Russia. Clever writing and tight plotting, coupled with a willingness to shock readers by sacrificing significant characters, continue to cement Akunin's reputation as one of the finest contemporary authors of classic crime fiction.