Fandorin returns in a swashbuckling tale of abduction and intrigue, set during the build-up to the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II.
Grand Duke Georgii Alexandrovich arrives in Moscow for the coronation, with three of his children. During an afternoon stroll, daughter Xenia is dragged away by bandits, only to be rescued by an elegant gentleman and his oriental sidekick. The passing heroes introduce themselves as Fandorin and Masa, but panic ensues when they realise that four-year old Mikhail has been snatched in the confusion.
A ransom letter arrives from an international criminal demanding the handover of the Count Orlov, an enormous diamond on the royal sceptre which is due to play a part in the coronation. Can the gentleman detective find Mikhail in time?
Set in 1896, Akunin's excellent seventh Fandorin mystery (after The State Counsellor) finds the brilliant investigator back in Moscow just in time to prevent some thugs from abducting Xenia Georgievna, the daughter of Georgii Alexandrovich, the uncle of Nicholas II, who's soon to be crowned as tsar. Fandorin is later stunned to learn that Xenia's brother, Prince Mikhail Georgievich, was snatched while she was being rescued. He suspects a Moriarty-like criminal mastermind known only as Dr. Lind. His theory is confirmed when the Russian royal family receives a letter from Lind, who demands the Orlov diamond, which adorns the imperial scepter and is an essential part of the coronation ceremony, in exchange for Mikhail's safe return. Fandorin, aided by a loyal family retainer, Afanasii Ziukin, races to retrieve Mikhail, in an effort to avoid giving up the valuable gemstone. Akunin keeps the action fast-paced, and the logical twists head-spinning, without sacrificing humor or depth of characterization.