The Turkish Gambit
Varya Svorova is a forward thinking young woman. She decides to follow the man who asked her to marry him to the war against the Ottomans. She leaves St. Petersburg and heads southwest to the Russian war against Turkey in 1877. When she arrives at the army camp she accepts Pyotr Yablokov's proposal. That night the army loses a prime piece of land due to a coding error. Pyotr is blamed and thrown into prison for espionage. Varya doesn't want to leave and is able to stay with the nurses in camp if she can obtain work.
Titular Counselor Erast Fandorin arrives at camp at the same time. Varya becomes his "secretary" because otherwise she couldn't stay at the camp. She isn't sure what he does but he rarely requires her services. While waiting for Pyotr to be acquitted Varya becomes the darling of the Russian officers and the press corps. She spends many an evening in the press tent. Fandorin sometimes joins the group, but just as often he doesn't. He disappears on secret missions and is regarded with a mixture of respect and contempt by the officers in the military.
Things are not going well for the Russian military. They cannot regain the city that was taken when the coding error occurred. They go into battle armed with the wrong information. One general known for his impetuosity at times helps them win, but at other times almost makes battles worse. The press have their own informants on the Turkish side of the battles as well as staying with the Russians. But their information isn't always reliable, either. Russia's monetary backing for this war is growing thin. The treasury is borrowing to keep the government going.
Varya flirts with the officers and the press while waiting for Pyotr. She wonders over Erast and his mysterious air. He looks much older than his age, adding to the enigma of the man. She is certain there is more to him than she can see. She doesn't realize, though, that he's the key to the Russians retaining their victory over the Turks.
As an American, I found The Turkish Gambit to be a slow read. It's an intricate tale and translated from Russian. If you don't know anything about Russian naming conventions, you can easily get lost before you get into the story. I have heard them explained and while I don't remember the intricacies, that knowledge helped keep me from getting too confused (thank you Lidya). I also don't know much Russian history, so this war means nothing to me. I'm assuming the overall battles and ending are as described here but don't know for certain. It seems to have helped set up the political scenery in Europe that led to World War I over 30 years later.
It has been so long since I had read The Winter Queen that I had forgotten much about Fandorin. I had to go back to the first book and check a few things out, including re-reading the end. Fandorin's eye is a bit cynical, so the reader gets the hints of satire and humor he adds when he is in the book. This one is told with Varya as the main character, so he is often gone from the pages.
Although The Turkish Gambit is a bit difficult to read because Russian writing isn't the same as American writing, I felt involved and had to keep going. The solution was a surprise for me, but as they review the events at the unmasking, Boris Akunin has the clues laid out for the astute reader.
Notice: Graphic violence
| The Erast Fandorin books translated into English:
The Winter Queen
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Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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