Anyone who read through all the previous 11 Erast Fandorin novels by Boris Akunin has been waiting for this moment. Those novels chart the career of the master detective during the final decades of tsarist rule in Russia, beginning in the 1870s when Fandorin was a young man. In the last book of the series which I read, Fandorin was killed off the final page — never making it to see the 1917 revolution. I like many others felt cheated by this. But in a plot twist borrowed from Sherlock Holmes, it turns out the our hero survived, albeit in a coma. He awakens Rip-van-Winkle-like in the unrecognisable reality of Bolshevik Russia in 1918.
The book follows Fandorin, his faithful Japanese valet Masa and his new female friend Mona as he experiences the various “colours” of the Russian civil war — including Red, White, Black and Green. None of them offer a palatable vision of Russia’s future and Fandorin is resigned at the end to leave the country which he has served for so long. I won’t reveal how the book ends, but I was intrigued by the sympathetic portrait at the very end which the author paints of Anton Ivanovich Denikin, one of the most successful of the White generals, who very nearly defeated the Bolsheviks and captured Moscow.
Akunin (whose real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili) is a historian as well as a novelist and this book, like his others, is infused with his knowledge of the period. Highly recommended.