Murder on the Leviathan Review
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News of the Crime of the Century quickly spreads through Paris in 1878 when ten people are found murdered in the home of Lord Littleby, a British collector of Indian artifacts. Nine servants were found dead in the same room on the house’s main floor, and Lord Littleby died a gruesome death upstairs. The murderer escaped with a golden statue and a shawl, which he presumably used to wrap the statue.

Commissioner Gustave “Papa” Gauche rushes to the scene, already dreaming of the promotion he’ll receive for solving the case. At Lord Littleby’s home, he finds one important clue: a gold badge in the shape of a whale—a gift that had been given to first-class passengers on the Leviathan, a luxury steamship about to make its first voyage to India. So Gauche boards the Leviathan in search of the murderer. With the help of the ship’s captain, he gathers a group of first-class passengers, who are all assigned to dine together in the same salon. There, in the Windsor salon, Gauche studies his suspects—including the pregnant wife of a banker, an aging single woman on holiday, an Indian archeologist, a samurai, and Russian diplomat Erast Fandorin, who seems to know a thing or two about solving crimes.

As the Leviathan makes its way to India, Gauche slowly uncovers more clues—and he discovers that the people in the Windsor salon aren’t always who they claim to be. And when the other passengers discover why Gauche is traveling with them, each one does his or her part to lead Gauche to the murderer.

Originally published in Russian in 1998, (and translated into English by Andrew Bromfield), Murder on the Leviathan reminds me a bit of my favorite Agatha Christie mystery, Ten Little Indians (also known as And Then There Were None). Akunin brings a room full of fascinating characters together to try to determine who can be trusted—and who can’t. He shares Christie’s talent for maintaining a calm, laid-back pace that’s filled with refined grace and style—no matter how gruesome the crimes may be. But that doesn’t mean it’s dull. In fact, there are so many twists in the story that the relaxed pace is necessary to help readers keep up. Agatha Christie fans will find a new favorite in Akunin—and anyone who enjoys a good mystery will want to pick up a copy of Murder on the Leviathan. It’ll keep you pleasantly puzzled until the end.

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