June 24, 2014 by Darius
I just read The Coronation by Boris Akunin (the pen name of Georgian writer Grigory Chkhartishvili). The Coronation is the seventh book in Akunin’s mystery series set in Imperial Russia featuring detective Erast Fandorin. Like all of Akunin’s books, The Coronation is based, partly, on historical events – this time, the coronation of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, in 1896.
In The Coronation, the young son of the soon-to-be monarch’s uncle is kidnapped days before the coronation by a criminal mastermind, Dr. Lind. (This part is fiction.) The kidnappers demand in ransom the magnificent Orlov diamond – a critical part of the Russian imperial regalia to feature prominently in the upcoming coronation. Fandorin’s task is even more delicate than usual: he must stop Dr. Lind without allowing the Romanov family to suffer humiliation via (a) the Orlov diamond being sacrificed to save the victim’s life, thus wrecking the coronation, or (b) the victim’s body parts being scattered throughout the crowd at the coronation itself (thus also wrecking the coronation). To top things off, Fandorin and Dr. Lind have a history that can’t be fully resolved until one of them dies.
Akunin makes sure to sprinkle The Coronation with plenty of real-life history. For example, the Khodynka Tragedy, where more than 1300 people were killed in a stampede over coronation gifts, plays a minor but important role in the events of The Coronation.
The Coronation, and in fact all of the Fandorin books, would appeal to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or mystery novels, but I would suggest reading them in order, beginning with The Winter Queen.