What would cause a talented young student from a wealthy family to shoot himself in the Alexander Gardens in front of a promenading public? Perhaps it might be the ennui and decadence so popular in France and now migrating over to the upper classes of Russia. The chief of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Moscow Police certainly thinks so, and paradoxically puts his newest recruit, Erast Fandorin, on the case. Fandorin is a young man of irresistible charm, considerable naivete, and a penchant for inadvertently stumbling on the right answer. In his hands, the matter proves not to be an open-and-shut case of suicide, but a phenomenon that will repeat itself again. Before this case is over, this promising young man will have gone far.