Murder on the Leviathan by Boris Akunin is a murder mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. It is the story of Lord Littleby, who, along with his servants, is found poisoned in Littleby's Paris townhouse on the Rue de Grenelle, and a priceless Indian shawl is missing. Police Commissioner "Papa" Gauche recovers a golden key shaped like a whale, the only piece of evidence found at the crime scene. Gauche deduces the key is probably a ticket for passage on the Leviathan, a steamship soon to be leaving Southamptom on its maiden voyage to Calcutta. He believes the murderer will be among its passengers.
In Cairo, a young Russian diplomat, Erast Fandorin, the famous detective from another of Akunin's books, The Winter Queen, boards the boat, and joins forces with Gauche to find out which of the 10 passengers without tickets is the murderer. The cast of suspects includes a secretive Japanese doctor, a professor who specializes in rare Indian artifacts, a pregnant Swiss woman, and an English aristocrat who collects Asian treasures. They are all kept together until the crime is solved. The suspense is maintained as Gauche and Fandorin try to out-investigate each other while the ship's passengers are being murdered one by one.
The novel is reminiscent of Christie's Murder on the Orient Express or Murder on the Nile, with its cast of suspicious characters: the English aristocrat, the professor of antiquities, the pregnant woman, the inscrutable Japanese, the dashing first mate, the "fallen" woman - all of whom have a motive for the killing. Each has a guilty secret, and no one is whom they appear to be. Like Christie, Akunin's story contains two big revelation scenes where the detective stands in front of the assembled suspects and explains how it all happened and what trail of clues led to the discovery of the guilty party.
The book was a little short for the full development of the story and the dropping of hints and c...