The Club Dumas and Special Assignments were disappointing

March 23, 2008

After a long non-fiction binge, I decided to read a few fun thrillers while on my two ski trips. I picked up The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte and Special Assignments by Boris Akunin on strong recommendations from Amazon, my friends and a review in The Economist.

The stories are enjoyable, but something was missing from both. I am not quite sure what was missing, but the books lacked that special page turner “I can’t wait to see what happens next” quality that some thrillers magically seem to conjure.

I had extremely high expectations for the Club Dumas. Having read The Three Musketeers and watched The Ninth Gate (and loved both), I felt ready to fall for the story. I liked the intrigue, but found the pace much too slow and the main character unappealing. I also really hate it when authors keep repeating what a main character is like to entrench our image of them. I get that Corso can use different smiles and looks to ingratiate himself to different people – no need to repeat it 100 times! Describe Corso’s character a few times, then demonstrate it through his actions. No need for the repetition!

I approached Boris Akunin’s Special Assignments differently. Special Assignments is a collection of two novellas on the adventures of Erast Fandorin, a 19th Century Russian special investigator described to me as a mix of James Bond, D’Artagnan and Sherlock Holmes. Again, I found the adventure intriguing, but disliked the repetition about the characters’ traits, the simple mindedness of most characters (yes we are in the nineteenth century, but that does not mean that everyone is naïve and stupid), and the fact that it’s more Sherlock Holmes than James Bond and D’Artagnan – it felt lacking in action.

Despite my misgivings, the stories were interesting and I feel there is something there. I am definitely going to give both authors another try. I will check out The Winter Queen by Akunin and am still debating which Perez-Reverte book to check out next.

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