I read this book in the wrong order as it precedes Akunin’s Black City, which I recently completed. And it does set the stage (sorry – couldn’t resist) for the latter book, with Fandorin now unhappily married to a woman he meets in this one. This book is set in Moscow during the final years of the tsarist regime, before the outbreak of the first world war, and one can sense the impending demise of that regime. Theatre directors are all cultural revolutionaries of a sort, the tsarist police force is useless in the face of ordinary criminals and revolutionaries, and the hero of these books, Erast Fandorin already seems rather weary of the whole business. Still, worth reading as the series itself is a remarkable achievement — and I do wonder if we’ve seen the last of Fandorin.