The Winter Queen: An Erast Fandorin Mystery 1

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9780753817599: The Winter Queen: An Erast Fandorin Mystery 1
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Book by Akunin Boris

Les informations fournies dans la section « Synopsis » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.

Extrait :

Chapter One

in which an account is rendered of a certain cynical escapade

On Monday the fifteenth of May in the year 1876, between the hours of two and three in the afternoon on a day that combined the freshness of spring with the warmth of summer, numerous individuals in Moscow’s Alexander Gardens unexpectedly found themselves eyewitnesses to the perpetration of an outrage that flagrantly transgressed the bounds of common decency.

The public strolling the alleyways between blossoming lilac bushes and flower beds ablaze with the flaming scarlet blooms of tulips was smartly decked out: ladies holding aloft lacework parasols (to avert the threat of freckles), nannies minding children in neat little sailor suits, and young men affecting an air of boredom in fashionable cheviot frock coats or jackets cut in the short English fashion. With noth- ing apparently portending any disagreeable turn of events, a lazy satisfaction and gratifying tedium suffused the atmosphere, mingling with the scents of a mature and confident spring season. The rays of the sun beat down in earnest, and every last one of the benches that happened to stand in the shade was occupied.

Seated on one of these benches located not far from the Grotto and facing the railings so as to afford a view of the beginning of Neglinnaya Street and the yellow wall of the Manège were two ladies. One of them, a very young lady (indeed, not really a lady at all, more of a girl), was reading a small morocco-bound volume and glancing about her from time to time with an air of distracted curiosity. Her much older companion, wearing a good-quality dark blue woolen dress and sensible lace-up ankle boots, rotated her needles in a regular rhythm as she concentrated on knitting some item in a poisonous pink, yet still found time to turn her head to the right and the left with a rapid glance so keen that there was certainly no way anything the least bit remarkable could possibly escape it.

The lady’s attention was caught immediately by the young man in narrow check trousers, a frock coat casually buttoned over a white waistcoat, and a round Swiss hat. He was walking along the alley in such a remarkably strange manner, stopping every now and again as he attempted to pick out somebody among the strollers, then taking a few abrupt steps before stopping yet again. Glancing suddenly in the direction of our ladies, this unbalanced individual seemed to resolve upon some course of action, and immediately set off toward them with broad, decisive strides. He halted in front of the bench and addressed the young girl, exclaiming in a clownish falsetto, “My lady! Has no one ever told you that your beauty is beyond all endurance?”

The girl, who was indeed quite wonderfully pretty, gaped at the impudent fellow in startled amazement, her strawberry-red lips parted slightly in fright. Even her mature companion seemed dumbfounded at such unheard-of familiarity.

“I am vanquished at first sight,” said the stranger, continuing with his tomfoolery. He was, in fact, a young man of perfectly presentable appearance, with hair trimmed fashionably short at the temples, a high, pale forehead, and brown eyes glinting in feverish excitement. “Pray allow me to impress upon your innocent brow an even more innocent, purely fraternal kiss!”

“Zir, you are kvite drunk!” said the lady with the knitting, recovering her wits and revealing that she spoke Russian with a distinct German accent.

“I am drunk on nothing but love,” the insolent fellow assured her, and in the same unnatural, whining voice he demanded: “Just one little kiss or I shall lay hands upon myself this instant!”

The girl cowered against the back of the bench and turned her pretty face toward her protectrice, who remained undismayed by the alarming nature of the situation and displayed perfect presence of mind. “Get avay from here zis instant! You are crayzee!” she cried, raising her voice and holding her knitting out in front of her with the needles protruding in bellicose fashion. “I call ze conshtable!”

Then something utterly fantastic happened.

“Ah! So I am rejected!” the young man squealed in counterfeit despair, covering his eyes theatrically with one hand and swiftly extracting from his inside pocket a small revolver of gleaming black steel. “What meaning has life for me after this? A single word from you and I live. A single word from you and I die where I stand!” he appealed to the young girl, who was sitting there herself more dead than alive. “You say nothing? Then farewell!”

The sight of a gentleman gesticulating with a gun could not fail to attract the attention of the promenading public. Several of those who happened to be close at hand—a stout lady holding a fan, a pompous gentleman with a cross of the Order of St. Anne hanging around his neck, two girls from boarding school in identical brown frocks with pelerines—froze on the spot, and some student or other even halted on the pavement on the far side of the railings. In short, there was reason to hope that the scandalous incident would rapidly be brought to a close.

What followed, however, occurred too rapidly for anyone to intervene.

“Here’s to luck!” cried the drunk—or, perhaps, the madman. Then he raised the hand holding the revolver high above his head, spun the cylinder, and set the muzzle to his temple.

“You clown! You motley buvfoon!” whispered the valiant German matron, demonstrating a quite respectable knowledge of colloquial Russian.

The young man’s face, already pale, turned gray and green by turns. He bit his lower lip and squeezed his eyes tight shut. The girl closed her eyes, too, just to be on the safe side.

It was as well she did so, for it spared her a horrendous sight. When the shot rang out, the suicide’s head was instantly jerked to one side and a thin fountain of red and white matter spurted from the exit wound just below his left ear.

The ensuing scene defies description. The German matron gazed around her indignantly as if calling on everyone to witness this unimaginable outrage, and then set up a bloodcurdling squealing, adding her voice to the screeching of the schoolgirls and the stout lady, who had been emitting piercing shrieks for several seconds. The young girl lay there in a dead swoon. She had half opened her eyes for barely an instant before immediately going limp. People came running up from every side, but it was all too much for the delicate nerves of the student who had been standing beyond the railings, and he took to his heels, fleeing across the roadway in the direction of Mokhovaya Street.

Xavier Feofilaktovich Grushin, detective superintendent of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Moscow Police, sighed in relief as he set aside the summary report on the previous day’s serious crimes, adding it to the Out pile on his left. During the previous twenty-four hours nothing of any note that required the intervention of the Division had occurred in any of the twenty-four police precincts in this city of 600,000 inhabitants: there was one murder resulting from a drunken brawl between factory hands (the murderer was apprehended at the scene), two cabdrivers had been robbed (the local stations could take care of those), and 7,853 rubles had gone missing from the till at the Russo-Asian Bank (that was a matter for Anton Semyonovich at the commercial fraud department). Thank God they’d stopped sending Grushin’s department all those petty incidents of pickpocketing and maids who hanged themselves and abandoned infants; nowadays those all went into the Police Municipal Incidents Report that was distributed to the departments in the afternoons.

Xavier Grushin yawned comfortably and glanced over the top of his tortoiseshell pince-nez at Erast Petrovich Fandorin, clerk and civil servant fourteenth class, who was writing out the weekly report to His Excellency the chief of police for the third time. Never mind, thought Grushin. Let him get into neat habits early; he’ll be grateful for it later. The very idea of it—scraping away with a steel nib on a report for the top brass. Oh, no, my friend, you just take your time and do it the good old-fashioned way with a goose quill, with all the curlicues and flourishes. His Excellency was raised in Emperor Nicholas I’s day; he knows all about good order and respect for superiors.

Xavier Grushin genuinely wished the boy well and felt a fatherly concern for him, for there was no denying life had dealt hard with the novice clerk, leaving him an orphan at the tender age of nineteen years. He had known no mother since he was a young child, and his hothead of a father had squandered his entire estate on worthless projects and then given up the ghost. First he’d built up a fortune during the railway boom, and then he’d ruined himself in the banking boom. As soon as the commercial banks began going under the previous year, plenty of respectable people had found themselves out in the cold. The most reliable interest-bearing bonds were suddenly reduced to worthless trash, to nothing, and the retired Lieutenant Fandorin, who promptly departed this life under the blow, had left his only son nothing but a bundle of promissory notes. The boy should have finished his studies at the gymnasium and gone on to the university, but instead it was out of the parental halls and off into the streets with you to earn a crust of bread. Xavier Grushin snorted in commiseration. The orphan had passed the examination for collegiate registrar all right (that was no problem for such a well-brought-up lad), but what on earth could have made him want to join the police? He should have a post in the Office of Statistics or perhaps in the Department of Justice. His head was full of romantic nonsense and dreams of catching mysterious Caududals. But we don’t ...

Présentation de l'éditeur :

THE FIRST BOOK IN THE MULTI-MILLION COPY, INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING ERAST FANDORIN MYSTERIES SERIES

'A sparkling romp of a story' TLS
'In Russia Boris Akunin is roughly the counterpart of John Grisham' TIME
'Think Tolstoy writing James Bond with the logical rigour of Sherlock Holmes' GUARDIAN

Moscow 1876.

A young law student commits suicide in broad daylight in Moscow's Alexander Gardens. But this is no ordinary death, for the young man was the son of an influential industrialist and has left a considerable fortune.

Erast Fandorin, a hotheaded new recruit to the Criminal Investigation Department, is assigned to the case.

Brilliant, young, and sophisticated, Fandorin embarks on an investigation that will take him from the palatial mansions of Moscow to the seedy backstreets of London in his hunt for the conspirators behind this mysterious death.

What readers are saying about the Erast Fandorin Mysteries:

'I loved it... I just couldn't put it down!' My book Obsession

'A delightful mystery/adventure! There's a dark twist at the end that has me anxious to continue in this series' Neil on Goodreads (five stars)

'Ultimately, the overall success of The Winter Queen is due to the vibrancy of its setting, the cleanness of its prose and the magnetism of its protagonist... Odds seem good that Akunin will be the next detective to capture readers' fancy en masse' Sarah Weinman, January Magazine

'These books are a fun, riotous read that you don't want to put down until you've completed each and every one of them' Jill on Goodreads (five stars)

'The conclusion is shocking and this reader can't wait to delve into the next in the series' A Writer's Jumble

'Nail-biter all the way through!' Corin on Goodreads (five stars)

A page-turning delight perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and the Russian literary greats.

Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.

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Boris Akunin
Edité par Orion Publishing Co, United Kingdom (2004)
ISBN 10 : 0753817594 ISBN 13 : 9780753817599
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Description du livre Orion Publishing Co, United Kingdom, 2004. Paperback. Etat : New. Language: English. Brand new Book. THE FIRST BOOK IN THE MULTI-MILLION COPY, INTERNATIONALLY BESTSELLING ERAST FANDORIN MYSTERIES SERIES'A sparkling romp of a story' TLS'In Russia Boris Akunin is roughly the counterpart of John Grisham' TIME'Think Tolstoy writing James Bond with the logical rigour of Sherlock Holmes' GUARDIANMoscow 1876. A young law student commits suicide in broad daylight in Moscow's Alexander Gardens. But this is no ordinary death, for the young man was the son of an influential industrialist and has left a considerable fortune.Erast Fandorin, a hotheaded new recruit to the Criminal Investigation Department, is assigned to the case. Brilliant, young, and sophisticated, Fandorin embarks on an investigation that will take him from the palatial mansions of Moscow to the seedy backstreets of London in his hunt for the conspirators behind this mysterious death.What readers are saying about the Erast Fandorin Mysteries:'I loved it. I just couldn't put it down!' My book Obsession'A delightful mystery/adventure! There's a dark twist at the end that has me anxious to continue in this series' Neil on Goodreads (five stars)'Ultimately, the overall success of The Winter Queen is due to the vibrancy of its setting, the cleanness of its prose and the magnetism of its protagonist. Odds seem good that Akunin will be the next detective to capture readers' fancy en masse' Sarah Weinman, January Magazine 'These books are a fun, riotous read that you don't want to put down until you've completed each and every one of them' Jill on Goodreads (five stars)'The conclusion is shocking and this reader can't wait to delve into the next in the series' A Writer's Jumble'Nail-biter all the way through!' Corin on Goodreads (five stars)A page-turning delight perfect for fans of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and the Russian literary greats. N° de réf. du vendeur HUK9780753817599

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