The Turkish Gambit
Boris Akunin newbies (e.g., this critic) shouldn’t worry about entering the Russian author’s Fandorin series at book 3: What you don’t know about the idiosyncratic investigator only enriches the novel’s byzantine intrigues. An exquisitely filigreed thriller set during the 1877 Russo-Turkish War, The Turkish Gambit condenses the thicketed politics and monstrous bureaucracies of 19th-century Europe into a lively, compact yarn, as witnessed by ”modern”but naive Varya: She comes to the front to join her fiancé, gets rescued and then hired as adjunct to Fandorin, and ends up beset by competing suitors and ideologies. Akunin, with Tolstoyan mercilessness, toys with her ideals, and ours. The results are delicious.