cover image Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk

Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk

Boris Akunin, , trans. from the Russian by Andrew Bromfield. . Random/Mortalis, $14 (356pp) ISBN 978-0-8129-7514-7

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. (May)