I have been following Boris Akunin’s Erast Fandorin series for several years. At first I liked Akunin’s shy, skinny, intellectual young hero. But then Fandorin transformed himself into a muscle-bound Putinesque superhero wannabe, so I lost most of my affection for him.
Set in Tsarist Russia, Special Assignments is actually two novelettes about Fandorin cases. The first, “Jack of Spades,” is a silly case where Fandorin is pursuing a clever con artist. It is supposed to be funny, I think, but I mostly missed the humor and found it ridiculously overcomplicated.
The second story I did not finish once I grasped where it was going. Called “The Decorator,” it is about Jack the Ripper moving his operations to Moscow. However, it becomes quickly obvious that Jack is supposed to be not only a woman but one who is murdering prostitutes because they are defiling their bodies. The whole idea was so abhorrent to me that I refused to read any more of it.