The Russian detective infiltrates a dangerous circle of suicidal poets in this “droll, incisive, and fiendishly clever” series set in nineteenth-century Moscow (The Seattle Times).
Naive young Masha Mironova arrives in Moscow at the turn of the century determined to shed her provincial Siberian upbringing. Reinventing herself as the reckless and daring Columbine, she soon falls in with a subversive group of poets known as the Lovers of Death. At the home of their leader, the Doge, these seductive bohemians conduct nightly séances to determine who shall be Death’s next lover. Once named at a séance, the chosen member must await three signs from Death before taking his or her own life.
The resulting string of suicides have drawn media attention and sparked widespread hysteria in Moscow. As the group’s numbers dwindle, the dashing investigator Erast Fandorin goes undercover to join their ranks. But will the gentleman-detective be able to stop Columbine from taking fatal action when she receives her three unmistakable signs?
“A devastatingly attractive combination of Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey and James Bond.” —The Guardian
Akunin's intriguing, if flawed, eighth mystery featuring investigator Erast Fandorin (after 2019's The Coronation) opens with a series of newspaper articles detailing several tragic deaths in 1900 Moscow. After a "latter-day Romeo and Juliet" take their own lives, a correspondent for the Moscow Courier speculates in print that his city has become the base for a suicide club, similar to ones that have existed in Berlin and London. The concept of a "secret society of death worshippers" who pledge to kill themselves is a promising one, and Akunin does a good job of bringing the reader into the mindset of a wannabe member of such a group, Marya Mironava, who arrives in the city in pursuit of a love-interest. An anonymous agent whom series fans will recognize as Fandorin goes undercover to infiltrate the society in an effort to destroy it, but newcomers may wonder why no one named Erast Fandorin appears in the book. This is not a good starting place for the uninitiated.