Boris Akunin






Weidenfeld & Nicolson, August 2006
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Sister Pelagia is a young Russian nun, known by her religious community as a walking disaster with freckles. She is asked by the Bishop of Zavolzhsk to investigate the killing of a much loved white bulldog. To be honest, the only person who loved the beast was his owner, the Bishop’s great-aunt Marya Tatishcheva, who is an elderly widow. Tatishcheva has become deathly ill as she fears the same fate will befall her two remaining bulldogs. There is a large assortment of family members gathering to see if the old woman will recover. Tatishcheva has tormented her various beneficiaries for years by changing her will almost weekly. The Bishop feels that someone is trying to hasten Tatishcheva’s death by killing her dogs. But is it someone who is on the will, and wants to remain on it – or someone who has been taken off it? Sister Pelagia travels to the estate of Tatishcheva to find out what is going on.

PELAGIA & THE WHITE BULLDOG has been translated from Russian by Andrew Bromfield and is the first of three Sister Pelagia novels to be translated from Russian into English. It is a cosy mystery, written along the lines of the Golden Age mysteries. I couldn’t help but compare Pelagia to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. She is naturally curious about people, and takes notice of every little thing that goes on. Like Miss Marple, Pelagia knits, and is a kind-hearted person. However, unlike Miss Marple, I just couldn’t warm to Sister Pelagia. I found that none of the characters came alive for me; I just didn’t care about any of them. The whole book hovered on the edge of being boring and longwinded. The potential was there: spurned lovers, greed, jealousy, politics and power struggles are all in the plot. It just didn’t make it in to an exciting read for me.

Aug 2006 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem


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