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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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2 Beaverton Mystery- A to Z

Murder on the Leviathan

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Murder on the Leviathan Cover

ISBN13: 9780812968798
ISBN10: 0812968794
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. What criteria does Gustave Gauche use in assembling his list of suspects? Are his inferences about the golden whale badge sound? Also, discuss what is at stake for Gauche in solving this case. Did you ever sympathize with his ambitions?

2. Evaluate the varying structure of the novel. Describe how its changing narrative viewpoints, and its digressions and seemingly trivial details (for instance, the news report on cholera), become important throughout the course of the investigation. Also, why do you think Akunin chooses to narrate the story from the perspectives of Gauche, Renate, Clarissa, Milford-Stokes and Aono, but not from that of Professor Sweetchild, the Truffos, or even Fandorin?

3. Renate Kleber complains that her tablemates are “a choice collection ofÉblooms, bores and freaksÉ [and] one lunatic” (126). How does Boris Akunin cast suspicion on each of the characters assembled in the Windsor Salon? What secrets are they each individually trying to hide?

4. Papa Gauche is proud of his title as “Inspector for Especially Important Cases” (54). Discuss the appropriateness of the detectives name, and also how his ego and cultural prejudices thwart his progress. How does Gauche take a simplistic view of people and events?

5. Reginald Milford-Stokes calls the Leviathan “a miracle of a ship” (35). Describe this colossal ship and evaluate the significance of its name. Consider what features of a cruise ship — such as confinement, exoticism, luxury and social stratification — make it a particularly good setting for a mystery.

6. Erast Fandorin cuts quite a dashing figure on board the Leviathan. Describe his appearance and the effect of his manners on the company assembled in the Windsor Salon. When and why does he stutter? What are his vulnerabilities, as confessed to Clarissa Stamp? And to what personal tragedy does he refer when he offers unwelcome comfort to Reginald Milford Stokes?

7. Gauche claims that the Paris police conducts its work “in accordance with the latest scientific method” (29). What tools do the inspectors have at their disposal? What is the Bertillon method, and what forensic advancement does Fandorin suggest instead? Compare the early work of detectives to our modern practices; how have scientific advancements like forensics and DNA changed the nature of crime solving? On the flipside, how has detective work remained the same?

8. Compare Fandorins logical method of detection with Gauches approach. Do you think it is unusual for a murder mystery to feature two detectives? What does this rivalry add to the plot?

9. Gintaro Aono claims that the Rajah Bagdassars jewels are the “greatest hidden treasure there has ever been in the whole of human history.” (95). Describe the Brahminpur treasure and its unfortunate fate, the mystery of its location, and the importance of Lord Littlebys pilfered shawl.

10. Discuss the diagram drawn by Professor Sweetchild, which Reginald rescues from beneath the table in the grand salon. What did you initially make of the “palace” sketch, and what is the true meaning of the puzzle?

11. Many of the Windsorites display cultural prejudices common in their time. How does this chauvinism increase suspicion amongst the passengers, and how does it lead to false accusations and bungled investigations? More generally, discuss the theme of national pride in the novel.

12. Why does M. Aono try to commit suicide rather than defend himself against Gauches circumstantial charges? Why is honor so important to the samurai, and how do the Eastern and Western philosophies differ? What occasions Aonos enlightenment, and how does he fulfill his “debt” to Erast Fandorin?

13. Who is the real Rue de Grenelle killer, and what complicates the murderers unveiling? Was this the outcome you suspected, or did you peg another Windsorite as the murderer?

14. 1.Do you think the colorful shawl possesses some sort of mystical power? Describe its hold on Renate, Renier, Gauche, and the rest of the Windsorites. Did you agree with Fandorins decision to “accidentally” lose the shawl through the ships window, or would you have kept it? Why are the others ultimately content to see the shawl disappear? Finally, what is the significance of Erast Fandorins parable of the three Maghreb merchants (on page 118) in relation to the treasure?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

reader richard, February 2, 2011 (view all comments by reader richard)
Diverting entry in an ongoing series. Erast Fandorin is a charming, nineteenth-century Russian James Bond if he was fathered by Nero Wolfe sleuth trapped on board a huge new luxury liner with a greedy, murderous genius who is after the world's greatest hoard of gemstones.

People die right and left as the sleuth, ineptly assisted by seemingly every passenger assigned to eat in his dining room, closes in on the inevitable identification of the killer/fortune hunter. Much entertaining diversion available, though the novice to the series can pick this volume up and start right here with no fear of missing a step. Akunin is a master of the enriching aside, the grace note that adds a little something to the series' fans' pleasure, but isn't required for the newcomer to understand to get the full impact of the story or the characters.

Genially recommended.
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(1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Kristen M, January 29, 2010 (view all comments by Kristen M)
This novel is something of an homage to other mystery writers including Agatha Christie, Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle. Wilkie Collins was the first author to write a single novel in multiple voices. This book also tells the story from multiple viewpoints, although oddly never Fandorin's view. Akunin also writes a scene where Fandorin uses his powers of deduction to identify other passengers on the ship in a very Sherlock Holmes-esque way. Murder on the Leviathan is a fantastic book and is highly different from the first book in the Fandorin series. Akunin is very good at writing in different styles and different voices. If you want to read one book in the series, this is a probably the best and a good stand-alone story.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780812968798
Translator:
Bromfield, Andrew
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Translator:
Bromfield, Andrew
Author:
Akunin, Boris
Author:
Akunin, B.
Author:
Bromfield, Andrew
Subject:
General
Subject:
Art
Subject:
Police
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - Historical
Subject:
Mystery fiction
Subject:
Criminal investigation
Subject:
Mystery & Detective - General
Subject:
Mystery Historical
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20050231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
240
Dimensions:
8.06x5.24x.51 in. .40 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » Historical

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