My latest lunch read - Special Assignments: The Further Adventures of Erast Fandorin. It is actually a translated version from the original in Russian by Boris Akunin. So it's no surprise that the backdrop of the stories are in Russia itself.
There are two stories in the book and both feature the Deputy of Special Assignments, Erast Fandorin. However the similarities end there. The tone of the stories cannot be more different!
The former is a light read and revolves around a con artist who had been doing some monetary trickeries around Moscow in the year 1886. Known as Jack of Spades, for he always leave behind the Jack of Spade card after his successful swindles, he finally meets his match in a battle of wits with Fandorin. This is also where we are introduced to Anissi Tulipov, who ended up becoming Fandorin's most trusted assistant.
The latter is set in Holy Week 1889 and the tone is so much darker, like a huge cloud of storm looming in the horizon. A serial killer, known as the Decorator, is out to "beautify" those cursed with ugliness. These brutal killings are similar to those by Jack the Ripper in London, where prostitutes were annhilated. It is up to Fandorin and Tulipov to stop this monstrous killer before it is too late.
The second story is much more gripping than the first as it is set in a much faster pace and one can feel the urgency to get to the bottom of the mystery. With descriptive words by the author combined with a pinch on my own imagination, the word brutal is taken to an entirely new level! (I do not know what would happen to my lunch if I were to put in 100% imagination :P)
Overall, both stories are well plotted with an interesting 1800s Russia and characters. Hmm...another author's creations to look forward too now ;)