So, I just noticed the Goodreads “blog this review” feature, and thought I’d try it out.  Well, that’s not quite true – I noticed the feature a long time ago, but never stopped to try it.  I’ve continued my whirlwind of mystery reading – if I finish listening to Maisie Dobbs today, I’ll have read eight mysteries this month.  Which is a lot more than my usual none to one.

I started fall quarter over the weekend – I had to travel north for the class that met in person, and then the rest is online, and the other class is entirely online.  There’s some overlap between the two, it looks like, since one covers children’s materials and the other covers children’s services.  In other words, I’ve got a great excuse to read a TON of children’s books.

I took the train instead of driving up, and I really enjoyed it – especially the ride home on a gorgeous fall day, on a fairly empty train.  I got lots of reading in, and enjoyed the scenery, and thought about all the reasons I love this time of year.  It’s the part of fall when it’s not drippy and miserable yet, you’re still getting some sunshine, but you can cozy up with a cup of tea and not feel like you’re boiling alive. Riding the train also allowed ample opportunity for nostalgia – both for all those old movies where they ride trains, and for my own train riding past, all across the UK and Italy.  Nothing like a train ride to give you a travel bug.  Right before my trip I watched The Lady Vanishes – an old Hitchcock I hadn’t seen before – which had a classic combo of great laughs and paranoia.  Definitely recommended to train-movie fans and old movie fans in general.

I got to thinking about genres – and how a mystery like Sister Pelagia and the Vicky Bliss books are technically in the same genre, but really couldn’t be further apart.  While each could be read purely for the ‘solving a mystery’ aspect of the story, the tone and treatment of characters are so different.  Anyway, here are my thoughts on the crime-fighting monastic.

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog (Mortalis)

Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog by Boris Akunin


My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
A mystery for people who like classic Russian lit, or who just like the novelty of having an Orthodox nun and bishop solve crimes. Sister Pelagia is a great character – people don’t give her a second glance in her habit, but she’s got sharp wits and a good sense of self-preservation, wielding off would-be attackers with her knitting needles. But she’s no Miss Marple in a habit – she’s also young and impulsive. The plot starts slowly, with plenty of time spent setting the scene of the country province, the local government and society, issues of corruption and church politics. I got distracted by trying to keep all the characters straight – the Russian naming system makes it twice as hard, to me. The plot thickens about halfway through, and the end features more action and a dramatic courtroom accusation. Things are just wrapping up when a monk makes a dramatic entrance – not to further thicken the plot of this story, but to provide a hook for the next volume in the series. Which I just might have to read.

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