Book Reviews,  Projects

Book review: Boris Akunin's Pelagia & the Black Monk

Book found at: Kill City in Melbourne.
Review previously published at: Blogcritics.com on 7th January 2010
Author: Boris Akunin
Genre: Russian historical crime fiction
Buy it from: Amazon.

It may seem strange that the detective series should be built around a nun from 19th-century Russia. But Boris Akunin makes it work.

This is not Pelagia’s first adventure; we first met her in Pelagia and the White Bulldog where it is made clear that she and her mentor/sidekick/boss, the Bishop Mittrofani, have done this sort of thing before. You see, she’s a nun and he’s a bishop and both of them share a sense of not just needing to right wrongs because they are Orthodox Christians but also innate curiosity, great intelligence and an ability to think logically.

In Pelagia’s second adventure, she must, when all other avenues have failed, deal with the spectre of a black monk that has been terrorising a monastery’s community.

Unlike the first adventure, Pelagia does not get the freedom to investigate on the Bishop’s behalf until it is apparent that there is no other option, with the first few investigators dying or mysteriously going mad. However, investigate she does, despite the fact that nuns are forbidden to set foot in the monastery.

You will find yourself both delighted and puzzled by the complex plot and charmed by the father-daughter relationship between the Bishop and Pelagia. You will laugh at the way they scold each other, at how clumsy she is, at how accurately Akunin is able to describe human foibles and wonder at the kind of scheme the Bishop and Pelagia resort to using with many misgivings.

You can buy the book from Amazon here.

Marisa is a globetrotting freelance writer, journalist and editor with cat for hire (her, not the cat). She is usually based in Melbourne but is currently flouncing around in Perth for a week for the Inaugural 2018 KSP - Varuna Foundation Fellowship. She will be at Melbourne's Continuum and online running a Writers' Bloc course in the coming weeks.

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