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PDF î The Turkish Gambit Ç An elegantly spun yarn Akunin s wonderful novels are always intricately webbed and plotted The Providence JournalIt is , and war has broken out between Russia and the Ottoman Empire In the treacherous atmosphere of a Russian field army, former diplomat and detective extraordinaire Erast Fandorin stumbles upon his most confounding case Its difficulties are only compounded by the presence of Varya Suvorova, a deadly serious and seriously beautiful woman with revolutionary ideals who has disguised herself as a boy in order to reunite with her respected comrade and fianc Even after Fandorin saves her life, Varya can hardly bear to thank such a lackey of the throne for his efforts When Varya s fianc is accused of espionage and faces execution, however, she must turn to Fandorin to find the real culprit a mission that forces her to reckon with his courage, deductive mind, and piercing gaze Gambit , literally tricking somebody is usually applied to military operations or chess strategies In order to achieve the ultimate win some losses have to be accepted along the way Both contexts fit here beautifully Boris Akunin, Russian pen name of Georgian writer Grigory Chkhartisvili, has taken an actual episode from the 1877 78 war between the Russian and Ottoman empires to spin yet another successful yarn around young Erast Fandorin, secret agent in the Tsar s Special Division The a Gambit , literally tricking somebody is usually applied to military operations or chess strategies In order to achieve the ultimate win some losses have to be accepted along the way Both contexts fit here beautifully Boris Akunin, Russian pen name of Georgian writer Grigory Chkhartisvili, has taken an actual episode from the 1877 78 war between the Russian and Ottoman empires to spin yet another successful yarn around young Erast Fandorin, secret agent in the Tsar s Special Division The author fills a niche market in Russia, as he himself sees it, between the serious literature of the likes of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy and the usual light detective stories of today For the international reader this new genre of Russian espionage mystery the subtitle of the original in a specific historical context is a fun read that at the same time provides some insights into the society of the day.At the end of the previous, first novel in the series, Winter Queen, Erast Fandorin s world was shattered the repercussions of the drama seem to have resulted in a change of character Now, he tends to stutter and is introvert and reserved Has he lost his detective s touch as well En route to the Russian military command headquarters outside Plevna, in Bulgaria, where a secret mission has sent him, he literally stumbles across Varvara Andreevna Suvorova A vivacious and modern young woman, she is intent on following her fianc , a volunteer soldier and cryptographer stationed at the same camp Varvara, Varya for short, takes over as the primary protagonist of the narrative and Akunin exquisitely develops her character and describes her increasingly important position among the expanding entourage of admiring men One of these is Sobolev, the White General, for the Russian reader easily recognized as General Skobelev, the real life hero of the battle for Plevna For the Turkish side, Akunin also bases some of his characters on actual personalities in the conflict Further, he introduces an illustrious retinue of international journalists, who mingle with the senior military and are embedded at the front lines Akunin s subtle sarcasm at their doings and mishaps shows through and gives the story a certain actuality to current issues surrounding media observing military conflicts The drama builds when it becomes evident that a saboteur must be at work Russian attack positions are pre empted by Turkish troops Can the culprit or culprits be apprehended beforelives are lost Like at a treasure hunt, Akunin leads the protagonists and the reader on a few wild good chases Will Erast Fandorin s ingenuity and sharp deductive talent, help or hinder the investigation Erast Fandorin has become a household name in Russia where millions of copies of each Akunin book are sold The English speaking world is slowly catching on with now eight novels available in translation This highly entertaining, this fast moving, action packed and character rich story, the second in the series, will delight any reader, beyond the already established Akunin fans The author brings the intricate Russian historical events of the late 19th century to life with wit and a great sense of irony and humour DNF I did not finish this book so I m not giving it a rating I can see that some might enjoy this book, so I ll give a brief summary of what I read See the punch line at the end of my review It s fast paced with a lot of action and just in time rescues of a damsel always in distress As an example of the writing style, we learn on page 6 that our heroine has been abandoned in a roadside tavern by her male companion and left alone in this dim, dirty, and distinctly malodorous sink of iniqu DNF I did not finish this book so I m not giving it a rating I can see that some might enjoy this book, so I ll give a brief summary of what I read See the punch line at the end of my review It s fast paced with a lot of action and just in time rescues of a damsel always in distress As an example of the writing style, we learn on page 6 that our heroine has been abandoned in a roadside tavern by her male companion and left alone in this dim, dirty, and distinctly malodorous sink of iniquity She has no money, no change of clothes, no papers Fortunately, just in the nick of time, the famous Turkish detective, Erast Fandorin, who happens to be in the tavern, comes to her rescue.Our heroine is a remarkably liberated Russian woman for her time The novel is set in 1877 during the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire Having read that there are women doctors in the United States, she starts to train as one by helping a midwife but finds that she faints at the sight of blood She then trains to become Russia s first female telegraph operator She finds that boring with no possibility of advancement, so instead, becomes a stenographer.Then she returns to her village in Russia to be a teacher The only other teacher in her school is a young male They enjoy each other s company so much that they move to live in St Petersburg Their relationship is chaste, so they live in a two bedroom apartment, but, of course, have to tell the landlord they are married All is well until her male companion decides that their platonic relationship is defying the laws of nature and gives her an ultimatum they must kick their relationship up a notch with or without marriage or he s gone It s up to her Meanwhile he enlists as an officer in the war and she follows him to the front, hoping to get a job as a stenographer again while she makes up her mind about his ultimatum It s a dangerous journey for a woman so she travels with him disguised as a boy That s how she ends up abandoned in the tavern The detective has remarkable gambling skills so he goes to the tavern dice table and wins a pony so she can travel with him In the very first day they are attacked by bandits and her disguise is revealed but just in the nick of time a squadron of Russian Cossacks appear to rescue her from villainy Here s the punch line all that I described I learned in the first 29 pages So I m not kidding when I say it is fast paced and action packed If you do like this type of book, you are in luck, because there are about a dozen in the series and almost all of them have been translated from Russian into English Painting of the Battle of Shipka Pass by Alexey Popov from wikipedia.comPhoto of the author from rferl.org It s the Ottoman Russian War in 1877, and a young liberated woman travels from Russia to the front lines to be with her soldier fiance Along the way, she meets up with Erast Fandorin, a talented young man with a stammer.Fandorin is put in charge of a project to identify and neutralize a master spy that no one has ever actually seen He sets to work with a vengeance.Highly recommended. I started this series a long time ago I really enjoyed the The Winter Queen Somehow, I managed to skip this second book and read all the other translated stories This is a solid, old fashioned, Victorian historical fiction, detective spy thriller mashup It s very much in the vein of Jason Goodwin s Yashim the Eunuch series, but Russian and set in the mid 1870s mid Victorian period.Writing is good Oddly, the POV did not include that of the protagonist Erast Fandorin , which gave the b I started this series a long time ago I really enjoyed the The Winter Queen Somehow, I managed to skip this second book and read all the other translated stories This is a solid, old fashioned, Victorian historical fiction, detective spy thriller mashup It s very much in the vein of Jason Goodwin s Yashim the Eunuch series, but Russian and set in the mid 1870s mid Victorian period.Writing is good Oddly, the POV did not include that of the protagonist Erast Fandorin , which gave the book a somewhatsophisticated feel than you d expect in a historical fiction, detective novel I thought dialog was better than description More importantly, because this is a Russian series in translation, the translation by Andrew Bromfield was good If a have a criticism it s with the occasional sesquipedalian excess found in the narrative For example, use of scrofulous and odalisque evoked peals of laughter while sending me to the dictionary to confirm their definition However, I ve read a lot of novels originally written in the period The dialog of the better classes consumed a lot of syllables.This book could be considered YA in tone There was no sex, significant substance abuse, or musical references in the story Oddly, I would have expected there to be camp followers mentioned There were none There was a moderate amount of alcohol consumption leading to drunkenness There was also gambling There was a modest amount of violence Violence was edged weapon and firearms related It was not overly graphic Frankly, I think the author missed an opportunity to describe the carnage and brutality of warfare in this period Characters were good and were solidly within trope The nominal protagonist is Fandorin He s what might today be considered a high functioning autistic, in the Sherlock Holmes mold Unfortunately, you d have to have read The Winter Queen to do muchthan observe him in the third person The real hero was Varya Suvorova, a modern woman Suvorova s was the primary POV She s a late 20th 21st century woman born in the wrong century She s well, but not excellently wrought as a character The interesting spin on this is that she s a thinly concealed Bolshevik Otherwise, she functions somewhat like Watson to Fandorin s Sherlock The remaining characters include a gaggle of Victorian journalists, Russian civil servants and Russian officers of the nobility A familiarity with H Rider Haggard novels and Alfred Lord Tennyson would hold you in good stead in appreciating them The author takes several jabs at the defunct Imperial and Soviet systems with his characters The antagonist was almost peripheral to the story and was unconvincing to me Characters other than those mentioned above were mere NPCs.Plot was a straightforward Sweet Polly Oliver with Suvorov She goes to the front to be with her comrade fianc husband Her feelings for him go through a change, as things go badly, get much better, and she becomes embroiled in the politics, dynamics, amours and guns, drums and steel of Russian HQ during the Russo Turkish War 1877 1878 Suvorova then watches and aids Fandorin catch a Turkish spy in HQ I thought the real antagonist was too deeply buried beneath red herrings for this to be a fair fight A long exposition was included with the big reveal at the end of the story to ensure the reader did not leave confused, although, this is very much in character with Victorian flavored mysteries.This was a solid story for a Victorian historical fiction spy thriller The Russian perspective was refreshing from the typical British one However, it s not the best I ve ever read I didn t think Suvorova s narration followed Fandorin s investigation properly I frankly wasn t interested in her born in the wrong century sub plot I really didn t know much about the region after the Crimean War I wasinterested in the atmosphere of the Russian HQ in this Balkans war setting In summary, this book was readable, but not recommended.Readers interested in late Russian Imperial military and diplomatic history might also want to read The Great Game The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia by Peter Hopkirk In fiction, there is the very similar in concept Ottoman flavored The Janissary Tree