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Posted December 9, 2008
Excellent nineteenth century historical mystery
In Zavolzhsk, far from the home of the Tsar, Bishop Mitrofannii rules over the vast scarcely populated remote region instead of Governor von Haggenau. The Bishop has earned a reputation for solving unsolved mysteries, which he takes pride in accomplishing though he also knows who actually uncovers the truth. Now his elderly late Aunt Marya Tatischeva sends him a letter asking for his help as someone poisoned Zagulyai and Zadidai with the former dying in agony and the latter barely surviving. He decides to send his secret sleuth literature and gymnastics teacher Sister Pelagia to learn what happened and why to the white bulldogs. Sister Pelagia travels to the home of Marya to investigate the canine homicide. Sister Pelagia quickly concludes that the target is the elderly woman, who is known for treating her dogs like pampered babies, but what the nun believes is the motive leads to several avaricious souls. However, other dogs are killed and the case takes a twist when two males are recovered from the nearby river with their heads removed. The Bishop directs Sister Pelagia to investigate the murders regardless of where it takes her, as he expects everyone to live morally and piously correct though he has some doubts with her switching identities from clumsy reticent nun to vibrant nimble Polina Lisitsina. --- In some ways this is more a nineteenth century historical thriller than a mystery. SISTER PELAGIA AND THE WHITE BULLDOG is a superior whodunit that uses the backdrop to paint a vivid picture of a remote part of Tsarist Russia. Readers will have to adapt to the names of the key characters, but will find it worth the time as the descriptions are terrific and the cast powerful especially the Sister and the Bishop, as irony and humor augment a fabulous story line. --- Harriet Klausner
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