The publishers were obviously delighted with Maxim Jakubowski's summary of this book: "Think Tolstoy writing James Bond with the logical rigour of Sherlock Holmes", as they put it on the back cover of the paperback. Now I enjoyed the book on the whole, but I do think that is going a bit far.
In 1876, Erast Fandorin is a junior clerk in the Moscow CID. Bored, he persuades his superior to allow him to investigate a bizarre suicide (amusingly described as "American Roulette"). Fandorin is tenacious in his inquiries and the case escalates in importance. I haven't read any Tolstoy or Fleming; I can see where some of the comparison with Bond comes from, though Fandorin is altogether more charmingly amateur in his escapades. Particularly in the first half of the book, the story is paced rather slowly, but gradually one learns to accept the pace shifts and somewhat implausible escapism of the plot, as Fandorin is promoted, sent to England, and investigates corruption and a secret conspiratorial society. There are twists and turns to the very end, not always entirely satisfactory but passable. I may return to Fandorin at some point, but Holmes, Poirot and Ramotswe can rest safe on their pedestals for the time being.