1. The Early Years of Boris Akunin

The Winter Queen: A Novel (An Erast Fandorin Mystery)


Boris Akunin with Zhanna Nemtsova in London

Of course, there's a certain sense in reading a crime series featuring a Tsarist detective with the demeanour of a dashing British gentleman and the sword skills of a Japanese samurai right from the start. But in the case of the Russian writer Boris Akunin - the pseudonym of Grigory Chkhartishvili, who only began writing his 19th-century historical crime fiction in his 40s - it was the fifth book in his Erast Fandorin series that really signalled the arrival of a true talent. Before Special Assignments - which comprises two novellas - Akunin was only selling 6,000 copies of each of his stories. But these bite-sized excursions into Fandorin's world were the perfect introduction; Russia loved their escapist charm, made Akunin a best-seller and dived headlong into his back catalogue. Now translated into English, a dog-eared and no doubt much-loved Fandorin mystery is in more than 20 million homes worldwide.

The rumors about the authorship of Devyatny Spas have also been fueled by the total secrecy surrounding the person of the author and the fact that his name, A. O. Brusnikin, is an exact anagram of Boris Akunin. AST has also released a photograph of Brusnikin, which appears to be either of a young Chkhartishvili or a computer-generated composite of several portraits, including his own.[11]

A scene from the film Spy, the film based on Boris Akunin's book

Language Label Description Also known as
Boris Akunin
Russian writer
  • Anatoly Brusnikin
  • Anna Borisova

Boris Akunin taking questions from the audience after the screening

As Boris Akunin, Chkhartishvili has been called the "undisputed champion" of Russian crime fiction given that he "has written more than a dozen crime novels and has been widely appreciated by discerning readers . . . and has been translated into many languages." As aforementioned, Chkhartishvili "prefers to work with historical material" and his "tsarist-era detectives are positive heroes, while political terrorists are the real evildoers."

Scotland's most successful crime writer is synonymous with the hard-drinking, Edinburgh-dwelling DI John Rebus - so much so that there were howls of dismay when Rankin retired him in 2007 after 17 cases. It was no surprise when he returned last year as a civilian consultant to the police in Standing in Another's Man's Grave, and the reaction was just as rapturous. With 18 novels to choose from, where to start? A bit like Boris Akunin, it was only after a few books that Rankin got the measure of his hero and understood how and where he operated - initially there were no plans for a series. For that reason, Black And Blue might be the eighth Rebus novel, but it's also the first fully formed one, Rebus juggling four cases at once while also the subject of an internal inquiry and a television investigation. If you like your crime multilayered, Rankin's your man.