** spoiler alert **
Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog
This novel isn’t what I expected in that it is not a traditional mystery. It is told in the third person and is probably 50% narrative. The very beginning of the book teases with the mystery of the dying bulldogs and then veers for probably about 40 pages to give background information on the province where the book is set. Near the end is a series of conversations between the civil governor (I think) and the bishop on various topics and there is actually a statement that the reader can skip this should they wish. Huh? I didn’t, but still, why do that.
To really confuse the reader, the author gives 98% percent of the characters three names and then proceeds to sometimes refer to them by their first two names or by their last names sometimes changing how he refers to them from paragraph to paragraph and a time or two within the same paragraph. The author is Russian, so I won’t complain about the names, however, it did make it a bit more confusing for me. Add to this the sheer number of characters introduced not only in the overview 40 pages, but once we finally get back to the story and Sister Pelagia arrives at the house to investigate the mystery of the bulldogs, even more are introduced.
The mystery of who killed the bulldogs is solved early on but not the why which figures into a later murder which wraps into two bodies found at the beginning of the book. You think it’s been unraveled, then the court scene appears and you’re left wondering why the court scene. Well, because, oops, it’s not who you thought it was.
This is the first book in the series, but the references to previous cases and the help the Sister has given the Bishop on those cases, left me wondering what I had missed. It is very time period accurate with regards to the role of women and men and church and state, which is to be expected.
I basically enjoyed the book but found the mystery disjointed and wondered why it is termed a Sister Pelagia mystery because she wasn’t in very much in the book. She did basically solve the mystery, but there are better out there.
Not sure if I’ll be reading other books in this series, but not sorry I read this one.
Edition note: My copy is a nookbook and some of the formatting seemed a bit off, but not sure if was the digitization of if the original formatting was a bit odd in places as well.