The Book Report: Erast Petrovich Fandorin, titular counsellor of the Tsar's Special Branch (secret police, ugh), finds himself in the thick of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. In a manner very like that of a skinny, stammering love-child of James Bond and Nero Wolfe, Fandorin arranges things so that the party responsible for the sudden and inglorious halt of victorious Russian armies to Constantinople, long the most urgent desire of Imperial Russian froeign policy, comes inevitably to light. His newly minted assistant, the silly and delightfully idealistic Varvara Andreevna Suvorova, takes the center stage for much of this wild, careening caper; a good choice for misdirecting attention, that, and yet the author *scrupulously* plays fair and puts all the clues before the reader...yet Varya's goosey honkings about irrelevancies and her young woman of middling class and wealth scruples, presented with great and genuine affection by the author, do screen the actual malefactor's malefactions quite neatly. One scene, a sword-fight, is particularly nicely handled; Varya's emotions of fear, disgust, and slightly tickled vanity (it's over her honor the parties fight) are so believable that it's hard to imagine the author hasn't had the same thing happen to him. (I doubt much that it has, though.) Quite a wonderful piece of writing (and translation), and not the only one.My Review: All hail friends with reading addictions! My friend's praise tipped the scales for me, causing me to get these books. I don't regret this, though I am sorry that I waited so long. Still, that means I've got a lot of time before I run out of them! There are over ten in the series so far.Very high-quality escapism, written and translated very ably, and presented in a point-of-view that's different enough to make the well-worn genre of lone wolf solves problems for Big Government, and then runs away from the limelight, feel fresh and new. Recommended to all who have a yen for solving puzzles...I didn't figure this one out until halfway through!