Paris, 1878: Eccentric antiquarian Lord Littleby and his ten servants are found murdered in Littleby's mansion on the rue de Grenelle, and a priceless Indian shawl is missing. Police commissioner "Papa" Gauche recovers only one piece of evidence from the crime scene: a golden key shaped like a whale. Gauche soon deduces that the key is in fact a ticket of passage for the Leviathan, a gigantic steamship soon to depart Southampton on its maiden voyage to Calcutta. The murderer must be among its passengers.
In Cairo, the ship is boarded by a young Russian diplomat with a shock of white hair, none other than Erast Fandorin, the celebrated detective of Boris Akunin's The Winter Queen. The sleuth joins forces with Gauche to determine which of ten unticketed passengers on the Leviathan is the rue de Grenelle killer.
Tipping his hat to Agatha Christie, Akunin assembles a colorful cast of suspects, including a secretive Japanese doctor, a professor who specializes in rare Indian artifacts, a pregnant Swiss woman, and an English aristocrat with an appetite for collecting Asian treasures, all of whom are confined together until the crime is solved. As the Leviathan steams toward Calcutta, will Fandorin be able to out-investigate Gauche and discover who the killer is, even as the ship's passengers are murdered, one by one?
"Akunin writes like a hybrid of Caleb Carr, Agatha Christie, and Elizabeth Peters....The atmospheric historical detail gives depth to the twisting plot." (Publishers Weekly)
"Murder on the Leviathan casts a crafty puzzle in a sophisticated setting....Akunin's dry observations on the moral poverty of the upper classes are drolly set off by his lush descriptions of the material luxuries by which they measure the value of life itself." (The New York Times Book Review)
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The Second Book About Fandorin
Good, old-time murder mystery…with great narration
If you're someone who can appreciate an old, drawing room-style mystery, this one will not disappoint. It has all the usual tropes -- diverse group of individuals with their own secrets, all trapped on a ship, suspicious with one another -- but is elevated about the "same old thing" with the great narration by Michael Kramer, who is fast becoming one of my favorite readers on Audible.
Characters named "Gauche" and "Sangfroid" are a nice tongue-in-cheek addition to the increasingly complex mystery.
I have heard Mr. Kramer in other works -- Mike Carey's Felix Castor series, and Thomas Perry's Butcher Boy series -- and yet he still impresses me with his cadence and facility with accents (which was of particular importance in this book with multiple key players). I'm sure that all readers have their own tastes when it comes to those who read our stories, but I must say that Mr. Kramer is among my favorites.
Buy it for the by-gone story; stick with it for the storyteller.