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Literature / She Lover of Death

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She Lover of Death (Любовница смерти, "Mistress of Death") is a 2001 Russian novel by Boris Akunin. It is the eighth novel in the Erast Fandorin mystery series.

The story is set in Moscow in the year 1900. A rather impressionable, naive, melodramatic young woman named Masha travels from the provincial backwater of Irkutsk to the city, adapts the alias of Columbine, and joins a suicide club. It's all very morbidly romantic, as the members of the suicide club, led by a mysterious man called Prospero, aka the Doge, off themselves one by one. Columbine is distracted however from her imminent date by death by an intruder into the club—one Erast Petrovich Fandorin, who has been hired to investigate the rash of suicides and the club they're associated with. Fandorin struggles to snap Columbine out of her romantic obsession with death, while also discovering that all is not as it seems with the suicide club and the Doge.



  • Born Lucky: A lifelong trait of Fandorin's that he exploits in this novel to gain entrance to the club, by playing Russian roulette twice in front of Prospero.
  • Call-Back:
    • Columbine asks Fandorin if he really doesn't want to be "Death's Bridegroom," and Fandorin makes an allusion to the tragic ending of The Winter Queen.
    "I have already played that p-part once, many years ago. I thought I was marrying a beautiful young woman, but instead I married death."
    • A mention of Princess Xenia draws a sigh from Fandorin. Xenia was Fandorin's girlfriend in The Coronation, but they were separated thanks to the trick of Zuikin the Romanov butler.
  • Cool Car: The 1900 equivalent thereof, as Fandorin acquires a three-wheeled experimental automobile and decides to attempt to make the drive from Moscow to Paris in three weeks.
  • Death Seeker: A whole club of these, "Lovers of Death"...although their sincerity rather differs.
  • Dressing to Die: The title heroine, Columbine, chooses her best dress to commit a ritualistic suicide in, which she believes to be a "marriage" to Death itself (or "himself", as she prefers to word it).
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  • A God Am I: Prospero has gone insane, believing himself to be a god, who drives people to commit suicide as a way of demonstrating his power.
  • Hero of Another Story: This novel and the next Fandorin novel, He Lover of Death, are two different investigations being pursued in Moscow by Fandorin at the same time. At one point Fandorin reads a newspaper article about the "Khitrovka Blinder", the brutal murderer who will be crucial to the plot of the next book.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: How Caliban, a former sailor, survived being marooned on an island—by eating his two comrades. The experience drove him insane.
  • Intro Dump: Columbine's first visit to the "Lovers of Death" club has Petya introducing her and the reader to several characters, including Lucifer, Lorelei Rubinstein aka "Lioness of Ecstasy", Horatio the coroner, creepy Caliban, and Prospero the mysterious leader.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Prospero, who gets his rocks off on manipulating psychologically vulnerable people into killing themselves.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Fandorin is inspecting the rear door to a crime scene when he is irritated by a random guard.
    "So he d-didn't use it, you say? Then why are the hinges oiled? And very thoroughly too?"
    "I couldn't say. I suppose someone must have oiled them."
    The man with the stammer sighed and said: "A reasonable supposition."
  • Mercy Kill: Averted by Fandorin, who notes that Prospero is going to die a horribly painful death from that shot of acid he just drank, comments about how they could give him a quick death by shooting him, then decides not to do so.
  • Motive Rant: Prospero gives one where he reveals himself to be far more cold-blooded than Fandorin had guessed.
  • Organ Grinder: There's one outside the club, singing a particular song that one of the club members takes as a sign that it's time to die.
  • Picked Flowers Are Dead: Columbine feeds the flowers that Cherubino gives her on their first Not-Date to a horse, saying that she has no need for "flower corpses".
  • Poisoned Chalice Switcheroo: Accidentally. The chaos caused by Fandorin attempting to escape from the Trap Door causes Prospero to dive to the desk and close the hatch—causing the roulette wheel on which the two glasses are poised to spin around. That leads to Prospero drinking the glass of acid that he'd intended Horatio to drink.
  • Property of Love: The mind games Prospero plays with Columbine get her to submit to him totally.
    Columbine: Now I am his thing. His property, like a key-ring or a glove.
  • Stylistic Suck: Caliban's awful poem about shambling skeletons.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The bulk of the novel is told third person POV from Columbine, but there are also police reports from an informant that has infiltrated the Lovers of Death club, as well as occasional newspaper articles.
  • Translation Trainwreck: The titles of the eight and ninth Fandorin novels were rendered less than elegantly in English. In the original Russian they translate to Mistress of Death and Lover of Death. Instead they were published, oddly, as She Lover of Death and He Lover of Death.
  • Trap Door: Prospero activates the one in his study under the chair, dropping Fandorin down into the basement.

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