In the middle of the night, a disheveled and badly frightened monk arrives at the doorstep of Bishop Mitrofanii of Zavolzhsk, crying: "Something's wrong at the Hermitage!" The Hermitage is the centuries-old island monastery of New Ararat, known for its tradition of severely penitent monks, isolated environs, and a mental institution founded by a millionaire in self-imposed exile. Hearing the monk's eerie message, Mitrofanii's befuddled but sharp-witted ward Sister Pelagia begs to visit New Ararat and uncover the mystery. Traditions prevail-no women are allowed-and the bishop sends other wards to test their fates against the Black Monk that haunts the once serene locale. But as the Black Monk claims more victims-including Mitrofanii's envoys-Pelagia goes undercover to see exactly what person, or what spirit, is at the bottom of it all.
Fans of Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog , the first book in Akunin's Pelagia trilogy, will be instantly mesmerized-and frightened-by this latest foray into Zavolzhsk's spiritual underworld.
"For all his status as a globe-circling bestseller, Akunin keeps faith in his sleekly engineered and allusive whodunnits with the classical virtues of Russian prose. . . . That polish lends his books a peculiar charm." -The Independent (London)
"Readers can hear echoes of Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Anton Chekov in whodunits that, because of their literary overtones, can be guiltlessly consumed as entertainment." -Los Angeles Times