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Not Saying Goodbye is a 2018 novel by Boris Akunin. It is the 15th and last novel in the saga of Russian detective, occasional spy, and all-around James Bond hero, Erast Fandorin.

Spring, 1918, forty-two years since the Fandorin cycle began with The Winter Queen. Erast Fandorin has lain in a coma for nearly four years after he was shot in the back of the head in Baku in July 1914 at the end of Fandorin #13, Black City.note  Everything has changed. Russia has "fallen apart with incredible speed and a kind of reckless jauntiness, as if for a thousand years it had just been waiting for a chance to crumble into dust." Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown in February 1917. Then the liberal government that succeeded him was itself overthrown by the Bolsheviks in October 1917, and the Bolsheviks took the country out of World War I. Now Russia is torn by civil war, with the Bolsheviks holding a very shaky grasp on power while much of the country is in the hands of the anti-Bolshevik White Russians.

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Fandorin finally awakes from his coma and, with the help of his ever-faithful Japanese manservant Masa, slowly regains his health. He gets mixed up with an anarchist cell in Moscow, before deciding that Russia is beyond help and it's time to leave. On his way south to Sevastopol and a ship out, he meets a woman half his age named Elizaveta (nicknamed "Mona", from Mona Lisa) and falls in love. But before he leaves there's one more mystery to be investigated, namely, an underground Communist group that bombed an orphanage in White-controlled Kharkov.

Meanwhile, this last Fandorin novel introduces a second protagonist to the narrative. Staff Captain Alexei Romanov is basically a younger, Communist Fandorin—dashing, clever, courageous. He spent the world war, and Boris Akunin's "Brüderschaft with Death" book series, in counter-intelligence, doing battle with a German spy. Now he has gone over to the Bolsheviks. In Moscow, Romanov pretends to support the Whites, and manages to infiltrate and expose a White Russian plot to take control of Moscow. Then, still operating as a mole in White Russian intelligence, he makes his way to Kharkov, where he works to undermine the White cause, while simultaneously trying to contact the rogue Communist group that bombed an orphanage. There Romanov meets an old acquaintance—Erast Petrovich Fandorin.

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Tropes:

  • Blow Gun: Shusha the Chinese Bolshevik kills people by shooting them with poisoned darts from a blow gun. At the very end of the novel Masa does this as well, getting his revenge on Skukin by shooting him with a poisoned dart.
  • Blowing Smoke Rings: Romanov smugly blows smoke rings while showing Orlov the secret White coded message, which he has already decoded.
  • Call-Back: Fandorin sees the children from the orphanage—"boys in blue uniform and a specter of disaster hovering over them." It reminds him of "something from the distant past." He's thinking about the children of the Astair House in Fandorin #1, The Winter Queen, and how Fandorin's own investigation destroyed their refuge.
  • Canon Welding: Alexei Romanov, hero of his own series, becomes the co-star of the last Fandorin novel.
  • Conscience Makes You Go Back: Fandorin is all set to leave for the Black Sea and Switzerland when none other than Anton Denikin asks him for his help, saying that he knows that Fandorin can't abandon Russia to be destroyed and burn in hell, that he can't let the Bolsheviks turn Russia into "one great concentration camp." Fandorin agrees and goes on Denikin's diplomatic mission, and this is what gets him killed.
    Denikin: But when a man could have saved someone and he didn't, that is also a choice. One that remains with him for the rest of his life.
  • Continuity Nod: Many, as this is the last book in the Fandorin series.
    • Fandorin contemplates a picture of his first wife, killed at the end of Fandorin #1, The Winter Queen.
    • In Moscow Fandorin runs into Gromov, a former stage actor and acquaintance of his from Fandorin #12, All the World's a Stage. Gromov has joined the anarchists.
    • Alexei Romanov's Cheka boss in Moscow is the former Bolshevik agent who antagonized Fandorin in The Diamond Chariot as "Thrush" and in Black City as "Woodcock". He's kept up the bird theme by now calling himself "Orlov", from the Russian oryol, for "eagle". And Kriukov, Orlov's "swarthy" sidekick, is strongly implied to be Hasim from ''Black City" as well.
    • Mona the artist, who falls in love with Fandorin and bears his son, turns out to be the daughter of Varvara Suvorova, Fandorin's almost-girlfriend 40 years ago in The Turkish Gambit.
  • Contrived Coincidence: A hundred million people in Russia and Fandorin meets the daughter of an old acquaintance he hadn't seen for over 40 years.
    Fandorin: You are V-Varvara Andreevna's daughter? But...things like that d-don't happen.
  • Convenient Coma: Fandorin wakes up from a coma lasting nearly four years, and after a little rest and rehab, is back to his old badassery. He doesn't even suffer any permanent effects from being shot in the head.
  • Creepy Crows: At the Green School commune, Mona sees some crows pecking away at pots mounted atop poles. Then she realizes the pots are human heads.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The Green School commune executes wrongdoers and puts their heads on pikes.
  • Distant Finale: The last chapter of the book skips forward two years to find Mona, still grieving, raising her and Fandorin's son in Switzerland. There she has a last encounter with Shukin.
  • Dream Sequence: Near the end there is a heartbreaking sequence with Fandorin and Mona, happily reunited in an Alternate History Moscow where Denikin succeeded in crushing the Bolsheviks. It comes off at first like an Imagine Spot but is revealed in the next chapter to be Mona's dream.
  • Downer Ending: Fandorin dies, blown up by a whopping 180 pounds of dynamite. Mona is left a widow raising their son. The book ends with a saddened Masa, now without a master, leaving Mona for parts unknown.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Cherepov the brutal White torturer wears an eyepatch, one eye having been shot out by a Bolshevik bullet.
  • Fish out of Water: Fandorin is shocked by how his old Moscow neighborhood is changed. The streets are strewn with garbage, soldiers speaking Latvian are tramping around, incomprehensible Bolshevik posters hang everywhere, his favorite restaurant from the old days has a sign saying "He who works, eats", and a once-fashionable shop says it now only accepts goods in barter.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: When Romanov and Col. Kozlovsky are getting ready to interrogate a Bolshevik saboteur, the colonel hurriedly says "I'm the good guy, you're the bad guy." It doesn't work.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The melancholy ending to the book and the series describes the rain starting to fall on the last page, as Masa trods away after taking his revenge against Shukin.
  • Hand Gag: The Green School patrolman who grabs Mona in the bushes does this to prevent her from warning the others.
  • Handshake Refusal: Romanov, who still has some old prejudices, refuses to shake the hand of Schwartz the "exaggerated Jew" when Schwartz shows up to be his partner at the stakeout. Eventually he gets past it.
  • Historical Domain Character:
    • Genrikh Yagoda makes a brief appearance.
    • More important to the narrative is the White commander, who is only ever referred to as "Anton Ivanovich" but is obviously Anton Denikin.
  • Identical-Looking Asians: Masa reflects that the Whites will never track down the Chekist squad of Chinese operatives, because "all Chinese looked the same to Russians."
  • Inferred Survival: Fandorin's body was never found, and the book's title implies that he might have survived the explosion (that would not be really surprising, given that he previously survived a bullet shot in the head).
  • The Infiltration: Romanov makes himself out to be a disaffected officer friendly to the Whites, and has little trouble climbing the White command structure, because the White operation is extremely unsophisticated.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Fandorin talks about reaching enlightment at the age of 88, significant to Buddhists. Mona reflects that Fandorin will reach that age in 1944, and "all the revolutions and wars in the world would have raged themselves to a standstill long before then."
  • Later Installment Weirdness: It's weird that this last Fandorin book has a second protagonist, basically a young commie version of Fandorin in the person of Alexei Romanov.
  • Ma'am Shock: Fandorin is 62 years old, he's gotten a lot thinner after nearly four years in a coma, and he is scooting around in a wheelchair, but he is still shocked when a stranger addresses him as "granddad".
  • The Magic Poker Equation: Mona beats Fandorin's three jacks with a royal flush. On the next hand Masa draws three kings to have four-of-a-kind...then loses to Mona's four aces. Subverted when Masa realizes that Mona is cheating.
  • Meet Cute: Maybe it isn't "cute", but Fandorin and Mona meet when they both get a ride on the same raft down the Don, and he then has to save her from being raped by the raftsman.
  • The Mole: Makoltsev, General Gai-Gaievsky's favorite aide, is a Bolshevik spy.
  • Out with a Bang: In the backstory, and gender-flipped, as Masa claims that once he was having sex with an "excessively high-strung Brazilian woman", and she died.
  • Pocket Protector: Mona gets shot by a bullet that goes straight through her shoulder, and then hits Fandorin—in the steel comb in his pocket.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: Masa is carrying his comatose master around like a sack of potatoes. An uncooperative guard tries to stop him from taking his burden onto a train. Masa tells the guard that he needs to lie down, that "You have a bad pain right here." Masa then jabs the guard in the stomach, leaving him incapacitated.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Gromov-Nevsky the actor, who has a sword, says he's going to stick Fandorin to the wall like a butterfly. Instead Fandorin gets the sword and does the same thing to Gromov-Nevsky, spearing him to the wall and saying "Now which one of us is a b-butterfly?"
  • Shout-Out
    • Gromov the actor quotes Hamlet when the anarchist hideout is robbed, saying "Oh, what slaughter is this!"
    • As she and Fandorin glide down the Don River towards the Black Sea on a raft, Mona thinks that it's just like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
    • Mona reads the latest Sherlock Holmes story, "His Last Bow".
  • Smart People Play Chess: How smart are Romanov and his White officer friend Mirken? So smart that they can play chess without a board, calling out moves.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Alexei Romanov is a young communist Fandorin. They're both dashing, brave, handsome, intelligent. They're both skilled special operatives. They even both suffer Cartwright Curse tragedies in their youth—Fandorin's wife is killed at the end of the first book, while Alexei's beloved Nadya kills herself while being interrogated by the Whites in this book.
  • Swapped Roles: Orlov ruefully notes that he needs help hunting down subversive agents. He spent his whole life being the subversive agent himself, trying to evade the authorities, and now he is the authorities.
  • Theme Naming: Fandorin is startled to realize that all three of his wives were named Elizaveta.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: After 43 years of derring-do, this is how Fandorin finally meets his end. Skukin blows him up with a whopping 180 pounds of dynamite.
  • Time Skip: After Fandorin's and Romanov's respective adventures in Moscow, a full year passes between the Moscow part of the book and the Kharkov part of the book in 1919. Fandorin tells Mona that he spent a year at a monastery hoping that things would blow over, before finally deciding that he should leave.
  • Title Drop: The terribly sad dream that Mona has about Fandorin's death ends with him being called away by a voice that she can't hear. In the dream, Fandorin says he'll be right back, and tells her "I'm not saying goodbye."
  • Unsettling Gender Reveal: Masa is upset when Shusha, the Chinese evil henchwoman he falls in love with, turns out to be a eunuch.
  • Wretched Hive: Fandorin's search for the anarchist who took the old lady's locket leads him to the Khitrovka district, a hive of crime and vice where he has visited in several previous novels.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: Fandorin does this with a notepad in Makoltsev's room to figure out what Makoltsev is up to. It's a list of arrival times for a train, the train that is carrying the vital cargo of tanks for the White army
  • Young Future Famous People: Romanov pisses off a guy at Cheka headquarters named Yagoda, by shooting a bowl of soup right out of his hand. That's Genrikh Yagoda, who became one of Stalin's most evil henchmen and one of the architects of the Great Purge, before he himself was purged and executed.
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