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Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel

A Sister Pelagia Mystery by Boris Akunin

Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel by Boris Akunin

Review: The final book in Boris Akunin's trilogy of mysteries featuring Russian Orthodox nun Sister Pelagia, Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel is less of an investigation into the murder of a controversial "Messiah", and more of a journey, and a spiritual one at that, for the good sister herself.

The murder takes place on board a river steamship, many of its passengers headed for the Holy Land. The dead man is Manuila, the leader of a religious sect known as the "Foundlings". The ship drops anchor at the nearest town where a government official, Sergei Dolinin, assumes command of the investigation. He ascertains that Sister Pelagia, who discovered the body, has an eye for detail and a deductive mind for reasoning, and asks her to participate in the investigation. It's quickly determined that the dead man, a Messiah to his followers, was a follower himself, and that another man is the real target. Sister Pelagia continues on to the Holy Land, where she becomes a target herself of an unknown assassin. Still, she's determined not to give up, even when it becomes clear that the answers she seeks may change her life forever.

Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel is a rather unusual novel. It's not a standard whodunit-style mystery, though it starts that way, and it's hard to appreciate Sister Pelagia's complete motivation for continuing on her quest for something. Although intially she seems to be looking for a killer, by the middle of the book, it's not quite clear what she's seeking. Though it's fairly easy to follow the action, and the narrative is briskly paced, the politics of the time (late 19th century Russia) and the sheer number of characters make reading the book a somewhat daunting task. Possibly to fully appreciate all the subtle nuances here, one must have read the first two books in the series.

And about the titular red cockerel? Suffice it to say, in a most remarkable letter written by Sister Pelagia at the end of the book, that will have to remain a mystery.

Acknowledgment: Random House provided a copy of Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Location(s) referenced in Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel: Middle East

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Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel by Boris Akunin

Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel by A Sister Pelagia Mystery

Publisher: Random House
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN-13: 978-0-8129-7515-4
Publication Date:
List Price: $15.00

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