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Special Assignments

(Erast Fandorin Mysteries #5)

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  3,343 ratings  ·  133 reviews
In Special Assignments, Erast Fandorin, nineteenth-century Russia's suavest sleuth, faces two formidable new foes: One steals outrageous sums of money, the other takes lives. The Jack of Spades is a civilized swindler who has conned thousands of rubles from Moscow's residents including Fandorin's own boss, Prince Dolgorukoi. To catch him, Fandorin and his new assistant, ti ...more
Paperback, 335 pages
Published February 12th 2008 by Random House Trade (first published January 1st 1999)
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Average rating 4.10  · 
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 ·  3,343 ratings  ·  133 reviews

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Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Another good entry in the Erast Fandorin series.

This book contains two stories. In both of them, there is an assistant, who is apparently going to be the permanent narrator from now on.

The first story pits Fandorin against an ace con man, who has been duping people out of their money for ages. This is a fun story from beginning to end, with both Fandorin and the con man trying to dupe one another in a game of human chess.

The second story concerns Jack The Ripper moving to Russia. I didn't like
Assaph Mehr
May 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Two novellas bound in one, both telling of Fandorin's work on behalf of Moscow city.

In The Jack of Spades Fandorin is first assisting his patron - Prince Dolgurukoi, governor of Moscow - against some con-men, and is then being subjected to a con himself. As most con-type stories, the tone is light.

The Decorator is a dark and disturbing tale of a serial killer. Expect lots of gore as Fandorin delves into the darkest sides of humanity.

What to Expect

Each novel is written as a different type of myst
Melissa McShane
This pair of novellas puts Erast Fandorin on the trail of two Jacks. In "The Jack of Spades," Fandorin pursues the titular character, an infamous con artist who's come to Moscow to fleece the public; in "The Decorator" Fandorin must track down none other than Jack the Ripper.

"The Jack of Spades" is a good caper story. Momos, the Jack of Spades, is nearly as clever as Fandorin and has an excellent criminal mind. He cons Fandorin, Fandorin cons him, back and forth, and the ending is either unexpec
Aug 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Akunin’s “Fandorin adventures” is a perfect choice if you are: a) a real detective lover b) admirer of classic Russian literature. In his novels Akunin depicts Russia (and not only Russia) at the end of XIX- beginning of the XX centuries where a brilliant detective, heartbreaker and admirer of Japanese philosophy Erast Fandorin elegantly solves the cruelest and trickiest crimes, getting acquainted with the members of Romanov dynasty, Ottoman pasha, Japanese ninja, most notorious criminals and mo ...more
Jul 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The fifth Inspector Fandorin mystery, this one is two chronologically sequential novellas. In the first, a mysterious con artist nicknamed the Jack of Spades is embarrassing the higher ups in Moscow, particularly Prince Dologorukoi, who dispatches Fandorin to set an elaborate con of his own to catch the swindler. This book also introduces a new assistant for the inspector, the desperately eager to please Anisii Tulipov, a sort of comic relief figure. With improbable disguises galore, full of the ...more
Nancy Oakes
This book is actually 2 novellas, if you will, containing two different stories.

In story #1, "The Jack of Spades," Fandorin is up against a clever con man whose calling card is the jack of spades. He leaves it behind when he has pulled off a very successful swindle, and things come to a head when an Englishman is swindled out of a huge amount of money that the government must repay. Enter our hero and his new assistant, Tulipov. This one was pretty light hearted and very enjoyable to read.

Jul 10, 2010 rated it really liked it

Well, I was almost sorry to get to the end of this book, because it means the end of the Erast Fandorin mysteries, at least until any more of the Russian versions get translated into English.

In this final English installment of the Moscow special investigator, we get two novellas. The first, "Jack of Spades," involves Fandorin with a master con artist, and it has a lighter touch than many of the other mysteries -- more humor, and in some ways, Fandorin's most worthy opponent.

The second, "The Dec
Ilan Sinai
Nov 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detective, russia, history
2 short novels. As usual sweet candy. Not too heavy. Good mystery and great ideas. Light read. Nice
This is the first book from Akunin I've read and I really liked it. Usually I can't bring myself to read English translations from Russian - I don't know, there's something missing in them, I think it's the innate humor of the Russian language - but this translation was very good and read really smoothly.

I didn't know what to expect, since all I knew about Fandorin was that he's a fan of things Japanese, has a Japanese servant and is good at martial arts - but the most entertaining feature of th
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I came to this having read five or six other Fandorin mysteries previously, so you can tell that I'm a fan. This book didn't disappoint - if you like this sort of thing, then this is the sort of thing that you will like.
The book is actually two stories, one about a fraudster, the other about a serial killer. The link between the two is that we are introduced to Anissii Tulipov, Fandorin's first ever assistant. Or at least the first one he hires, I think. And the first story is basically told th
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russophiles, puzzle-solvers, drama queens
Boris Akunin writes historical thrillers set in Imperialist Moscow and is the pseudonym of Grigory Chkhartishvili (an academic in his other life). I've read every English translation so far in his "Erast Fandorin" series, and every one is fantastic escapist literature. The characters are a bit over the top (as they should be) and the historical detail is rich. The writing is much better than the kind of blockbuster brain candy you get in most thrillers; they go down easy, but you don't feel stup ...more
Lex Poot
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
Delightful read. Though the second story was a bit too gory to my taste.
Branko Jovanovski
Nov 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
The first story is a 3 at most, the second is 5 - one of the best Fandorin stories.
Golan Schzukin
Another excellent one
Laura Edwards
Oct 18, 2017 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Darrell Woods
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
Special Assignments, or Fandorin 5, provides us faithful readers with two tales for the price of one. In the former, we are on the trail of a wily trickster/conman - think Oceans11, with charm, front and disguise put to good effect, usually against bad Uns who arguably had it coming.... the second is a sequel of sorts to the Jack the Ripper tale - a monster now unleashed in Moscow. Splitting the book into two might not work but here it is cleverly handled to contrast the two scenarios. There is ...more
Tina Tamman
Nov 12, 2018 rated it liked it
If you have never read Akunin, nothing in my view beats "The Winter Queen" - very much recommended. His detective, Erast Fandorin, is there very young and gauche, preoccupied with a male corset, an item of clothing that adds an unexpected dimension to the story. And the story is good; it even has a discernible moral core.
In this particular volume, however, Fandorin is middle-aged and so the stories are different, no longer about his youth and inexperience. And that is a pity. Reading the book m
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
What the...? First of all, this wasn't one book, it was very clearly two separate books sharing the same cover. The first was fine--a little light and fluffy but entertaining. The second, however, went to a really dark place and was honestly just a bit too much for me. And I also don't feel like it was well crafted as a mystery/detective novel. The best in this genre unspool the mystery slowly, giving the reader just enough clues to keep them headed in the right direction while also employing a ...more
Robert Hepple
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First published in Russian in 1999, and subsequently translated into English in 2006, 'Special Assignments' consists of two novellas featuring sleuth Erast Fandorin in Moscow of the late 19th century. The first novella, 'The Jack of Spades', has Fandorin pursuing a high profile con-man, whilst the second tale 'The Decorator' sees him trying to track down a serial killer. The humorous flamboyant style of the first tale is well and truly at odds with the style of the second tale - a little unsettl ...more
Feb 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Another outstanding book by Broisk Akunin, I started reading him several years ago and I'm not sure why I stopped (probably because there was nothing else being published at that time). This is a worthy read with homages to Arthur Conan Doyle, Dostoevsky and probably others that I have not noticed.

Two excellent stories that will satisfy the crime thriller readers all set in pre-revolutionary Russia. Hugely enjoyable and recommended.
David Bosley
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
As detectives go, Boris Akunin's Fandorin is great fun to read. He is unpredictable, eccentric, not afraid of direct action when necessary, but also has quite a few little grey cells to help solve his cases. The context is Moscow in the 1880's and that just adds a bit of cultural and historical interest to the books. Although even Fandorin can make mistakes... This is the fifth book in the series.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Whether it was my lowered expectations or my mood or the book itself, I was pleasantly surprised by this 5th book in the Erast Fandorin series.

The book consisted of two loosely connected novellas: "The Jack of Spades" and "The Decorator". In both of these, Fandorin is joined by Anisii Tulipov - a character I much enjoyed. Of the 2 novellas, I preferred the first one which was clever and humorous. The second story was much darker and more shocking.
Mar 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
This seemed like two books combined awkwardly into one- the first half was an interesting character-driven story, like the previous 4 Erast Fandorin mysteries, and the second half was a needlessly gory mishmash that left me completely uninterested in who the murderer was. Guess it's no loss that this is the last book in the series that is translated into English.
May 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019
Continuing my murder mystery tour of the world...

What a fabulous, fascinating mind! Usually mysteries are like candy for me but Akunin's stories always take me a while to get into -- then full, delighted, immersion. Completely unfamiliar! Glimpses of the various viewpoints of Akunin's characters, transport me to an age & culture, a mindset, that is nothing like what I know.
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery-novels
A little slow off the mark, but once I got into it, it was a good read. Kudos to the translator!
The ending was a bit odd (for us in NA, at least).
I'm getting more of this author to read, at least the Fandorin series.
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: criminal, favorites
Not five stars, because it's two books in Russian, not one, and both are very different - the first one funny and positive, and the second one gruesome, sad and depressing. But it's an interesting theory about Jack the Ripper, although I strongly object to him being Russian XD
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange book. It is really two books - one about a con man, the other about a serial murderer. The latter story is not for the faint-hearted, is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and is very, very dark. It leaves you wondering what next for hero Fandorin, both professionally and emotionally.
Pinko Palest
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
another great Fandorin book. The first story is great fun, but the second one, about Jack the Ripper coming to Moscow, was too horrific for my tastes
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
“You’re a fortunate man, Tulipov.... the Lord has given you a firm center for the whole of your life.” Several times Fandorin turns Tulipov’s negatives into positives.

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Real name - Grigory Shalvovich Chkhartishvili (Russian: Борис Акунин; Georgian: გრიგოლ შალვას ძე ჩხარტიშვილი; Аlso see Grigory Chkhartishvili), born in Tbilisi, Georgia, in 1956. Since 1958 he lives in Moscow. Writer and translator from Japanese. Author of crime stories set in tsarist Russia. In 1998 he made his debut with novel Azazel (to English readers known as The Winter Queen), where he crea ...more

Other books in the series

Erast Fandorin Mysteries (1 - 10 of 16 books)
  • The Winter Queen (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #1)
  • The Turkish Gambit (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #2)
  • Murder on the Leviathan (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #3)
  • The Death of Achilles (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #4)
  • Статский советник (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #6)
  • Коронация, или Последний из романов (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #7)
  • Любовница смерти (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #8)
  • Любовник смерти (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #9)
  • Алмазная колесница (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #10)
  • Нефритовые четки (Erast Fandorin Mysteries, #11)

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“She can't go into public care,” he explained. “She'd pine away. The poor simpleton is far too used to me.” That was when Fandorin really astounded him. “I envy you,” he said, sighing. “You're a fortunate man, Tulipov. At such a young age you already have reason to respect yourself—something you can be proud of. The Lord has given you a firm center for the whole of your life.” 2 likes
“God has no need of cold people.” 1 likes
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