Fans of Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog, the first book in Akunin’s Pelagia trilogy, will be instantly mesmerized–and frightened–by this latest foray into Zavolzhsk’ s spiritual underworld.
In the middle of the night, a disheveled and badly frightened monk arrives at the doorstep of Bishop Mitrofanii of Zavolzhsk, crying: “Something’s wrong at the Hermitage!” The Hermitage is the centuries-old island monastery of New Ararat, known for its tradition of severely penitent monks, isolated environs, and a mental institution founded by a millionaire in self-imposed exile. Hearing the monk’s eerie message, Mitrofanii’s befuddled but sharp-witted ward Sister Pelagia begs to visit New Ararat and uncover the mystery. Traditions prevail–no women are allowed–and the bishop sends other wards to test their fates against the Black Monk that haunts the once serene locale. But as the Black Monk claims more victims–including Mitrofanii’s envoys–Pelagia goes undercover to see exactly what person, or what spirit, is at the bottom of it all.
Praise for Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk
“For all his status as a globe-circling bestseller, Akunin keeps faith in his sleekly engineered and allusive whodunnits with the classical virtues of Russian prose. . . . That polish lends his books a peculiar charm.”–The Independent (London)
“Readers can hear echoes of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anton Chekov in whodunits that, because of their literary overtones, can be guiltlessly consumed as entertainment.”—Los Angeles Times
Akunin, best known for his Erast Fandorin series (Special Assignments, etc.), has created another memorable sleuth in Sister Pelagia, a 19th-century Russian nun whose insights into human nature and curiosity will remind many of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown. In this excellent second installment (after 2007's Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog), Pelagia's superior, Bishop Mitrofanii of Zavolzshsk, dispatches a series of emissaries to investigate the horrifying apparition of a black monk that's haunting the monastery of New Ararat on the shores of the Blue Lake, a locale as creepy as the moors of The Hound of the Baskervilles. When all end up victims of the ghostly figure, Pelagia defies the bishop and travels to the remote community to pursue the case. Readers will savor Akunin's distinctive narrative voice as well as the artful blend of humor and horror with such elements of traditional detective fiction as cleverly concealed clues and numerous false solutions.