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Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
Cover of Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
Sister Pelagia Mystery Series, Book 1
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"Pelagia's family likeness to Father Brown and Miss Marple is marked, and reading about her supplies a similarly decorous pleasure."
The Literary Review
In a remote Russian province in the late nineteenth century, Bishop Mitrofanii must deal with a family crisis. After learning that one of his great aunt's beloved and rare white bulldogs has been poisoned, the Orthodox bishop knows there is only one detective clever enough to investigate the murder: Sister Pelagia.
The bespectacled, freckled Pelagia is lively, curious, extraordinarily clumsy, and persistent. At the estate in question, she finds a whole host of suspects, any one of whom might have benefited if the old lady (who changes her will at whim) had expired of grief at the pooch's demise. There's Pyotr, the matron's grandson, a nihilist with a grudge who has fallen for the maid; Stepan, the penniless caretaker, who has sacrificed his youth to the care of the estate; Miss Wrigley, a mysterious Englishwoman who has recently been named sole heiress to the fortune; Poggio, an opportunistic and freeloading "artistic" photographer; and, most intriguingly, Naina, the old lady's granddaughter, a girl so beautiful she could drive any man to do almost anything.
As Pelagia bumbles and intuits her way to the heart of a mystery among people with faith only in greed and desire, she must bear in mind the words of Saint Paul: "Beware of dogs–and beware of evil-doers."
"Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have praised [Akunin's] clever plots, vivid characters and wit."
Baltimore Sun

"Akunin's wonderful novels are always intricately webbed and plotted."
The Providence Journal
"Pelagia's family likeness to Father Brown and Miss Marple is marked, and reading about her supplies a similarly decorous pleasure."
The Literary Review
In a remote Russian province in the late nineteenth century, Bishop Mitrofanii must deal with a family crisis. After learning that one of his great aunt's beloved and rare white bulldogs has been poisoned, the Orthodox bishop knows there is only one detective clever enough to investigate the murder: Sister Pelagia.
The bespectacled, freckled Pelagia is lively, curious, extraordinarily clumsy, and persistent. At the estate in question, she finds a whole host of suspects, any one of whom might have benefited if the old lady (who changes her will at whim) had expired of grief at the pooch's demise. There's Pyotr, the matron's grandson, a nihilist with a grudge who has fallen for the maid; Stepan, the penniless caretaker, who has sacrificed his youth to the care of the estate; Miss Wrigley, a mysterious Englishwoman who has recently been named sole heiress to the fortune; Poggio, an opportunistic and freeloading "artistic" photographer; and, most intriguingly, Naina, the old lady's granddaughter, a girl so beautiful she could drive any man to do almost anything.
As Pelagia bumbles and intuits her way to the heart of a mystery among people with faith only in greed and desire, she must bear in mind the words of Saint Paul: "Beware of dogs–and beware of evil-doers."
"Critics on both sides of the Atlantic have praised [Akunin's] clever plots, vivid characters and wit."
Baltimore Sun

"Akunin's wonderful novels are always intricately webbed and plotted."
The Providence Journal
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Excerpts-
  • From the book CHAPTER 1 The Death of Zagulyai

    . . . but i should tell you that, come the apple festival of Transfiguration Day, when the sky begins to change from summer to autumn, it is the usual thing for our town to be overrun by an absolute plague of cicadas, so that by night, much as you might wish to sleep, you never can, what with all that interminable trilling on all sides, and the stars hanging down low over your head, and especially with the moon dangling just above the tops of the bell towers, for all the world like one of our renowned "smetana" apples, the kind that the local merchants supply to the royal court and even take to shows in Europe. If someone should ever happen to glance down at Zavolzhsk from those heavenly spheres out of which the lamps of the night pour forth their bright rays, then the picture presented to that fortunate person's eyes would surely be one of some enchanted kingdom: the River sparkling lazily, the roofs glittering, the gas lamps flickering in the streets, and, hovering over all the shimmer and glimmer of this multifarious radiance, the tremulous silvery chiming of the cicada choir.

    But let us return to the reverend Mitrofanii. Our passing reference to nature was made purely and simply to explain why on such a night even the most ordinary of men, far less burdened with cares than the bishop of the province, would find sleep hard to come by. It is hardly surprising that ill-wishers, of whom every man has some, even this worthy pastor being no exception, should claim that it is not our governor, Anton Antonovich von Haggenau, but His Grace who is the true ruler of this extensive region.

    Extensive indeed the region may be, but densely populated it is not. The only genuine town it can really be said to possess is Zavolzhsk, and the others, including the district centers, are more like overgrown villages with a few stone administrative buildings clustered around a single square, a small cathedral, and a hundred or two little log houses with tin roofs of the kind that since time immemorial have for some reason always been painted green in these parts.

    And, God knows, even the provincial capital is no Babylon—at the time we are describing, its entire population amounted to twenty-three thousand five hundred eleven individuals of both sexes. Although, of course, during the week following Transfiguration, if no one was to die, the number of inhabitants was expected to increase by two souls, because the wife of the manager of the provincial chancelry, Shtops, and the tradesman's wife, Safulina, were near their time, and the general opinion was that the latter was already overdue.

    The custom of maintaining a strict accounting of the population had only been introduced recently, under the current administration, and then only in the towns. How many folk there may be making a living out in the forests and the swamps is something known only to God—go try counting them! The dense, impenetrable thickets extend for hundred of miles from the River all the way to the Ural Mountains, with schismatic monastic communities and salt factories buried among them, and along the banks of the dark, deep rivers that, for the most part, have no names at all, dwells the Zyt tribe, a quiet and submissive people of Ugrian blood.

    The only mention of the ancient life of our obscure province is contained in the Nizhny-Novgorod Miscellany, a chronicle from the fifteenth century. It speaks of a Novgorodian visitor by the name of Ropsha who was captured by "the wild, bare-bellied pagans" in the green forests and lost his head in a sacrifice to the stone idol Shishiga, and as the chronicler for some reason finds it necessary to...
About the Author-
  • Boris Akunin is the pen name of Grigory Chkhartishvili, who was born in the republic of Georgia in 1956. A philologist, critic, essayist, and translator of Japanese, Akunin published his first detective stories in 1998 and has become one of the most widely read authors in Russia. He is the author of the Erast Fandorin novels, including The Winter Queen, The Turkish Gambit, Murder on the Leviathan, The Death of Achilles, and Special Assignments, and Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog, Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk, and Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel, in the Sister Pelagia series. He lives in Moscow.
    Andrew Bromfield was born in Hull in Yorkshire, England. Apart from his acclaimed translations of Boris Akunin, he is known for his translations of the stories and novels of Victor Pelevin, including The Life of Insects, Buddha's Little Finger, and Homo Zapiens.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 20, 2006
    Set in the late 19th century, this charming, highly unusual whodunit from Russian author Akunin (the pen name of Grigory Chkhartishvili) introduces Sister Pelagia, a young nun in a remote Russian province far removed from the intrigue of the czarist government. Pelagia's bishop, who has discreetly and successfully employed her deductive skills before, calls on her when an uncommon white bulldog belonging to his aunt is poisoned. After the nun's arrival on the scene, the two remaining dogs in the breeding line turn up dead, leading Pelagia to suspect the killings are actually an indirect attempt to murder their wealthy mistress, whose devotion to the animals is legendary. Akunin's gently humorous omniscient narrative voice distinguishes this novel from other historical mysteries. Even admirers of Akunin's Erast Petrovich Fandorin series (The Death of Achilles
    , etc.) will appreciate the author's switch to another, even more memorable sleuth.

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Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
Sister Pelagia Mystery Series, Book 1
Boris Akunin
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