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Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
Sister Pelagia series #1

by Boris Akunin
Translated by Andrew Bromfield

      It's fun to follow Sister Pelagia, Boris Akunin's captivating new character, as she tries to figure out who poisoned the rare and valuable white bulldogs that belonged to the Bishop's aunt, Marya Tatischeva. She had sent the Bishop a letter asking for his help as someone poisoned Zagulyai and Zadidai. The former died, and the latter barely survived.

Set in the late 19th century, in a remote Russian province, this unusual mystery from Russian author Akunin (the pen name of Grigory Chkhartishvili) introduces Sister Pelagia, a young nun who is bespectacled, freckled, and clumsy, but curious and persistent. Bishop Mitrofani has used Sister Pelagia's deductive skills before, and he calls on her to figure out who killed the bulldog and why. After her arrival, the two remaining dogs in the Aunt's breeding line turn up dead. Pelagia begins to suspect that perhaps the killings are actually an indirect attempt to murder their devoted mistress, the Bishop's aunt.

When the elderly woman dies of grief, Pelagia discovers that she made frequent whimsical changes to her will, leaving a multitude of people who might have thought they would benefit from her death... .and all of them become suspects in the crime. Pelagia finds herself in danger as she gets closer to solving the crime.

Akunin's plot is fast moving and clever, and while the Russian names do not readily roll off the tongue of American readers, the characters are believable, colorful, and sometimes darkly comical. The setting is superb and the descriptions take you right into the Russian countryside of yesteryear. I enjoyed this lively mystery very much as a change of pace. Akunin's next book in the Sister Pelagia series will be Pelagia and the Black Monk. It sounds as exciting as the White Bulldog! I will definitely be watching for it.

The Book

Random House
January 30, 2007
Trade Paperback
Historical mystery [late 19th C Russia]
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The Reviewer

Beverly Rowe
Reviewed 2007
© 2006