Courtesy of a special order from Auntie’s Bookstore
Vodka & Olives Rating: 0000
Synopsis: When it seems that the devil incarnate, Inspector Bubentsov from the Russian Orthodox Episocopal See arrives in the provincial town of Zavolzhsk on Apple Festival Day, good Bishop Mitrofanii must find a way to scuttle his schemes. Fortunately the brave and resourceful ginger-haired nun Pelagia is not only capable of undercover work, she enjoys it so much that it must be a sin. Circa 1850.
References To Other Works: Although there are supposed to be subtle references to 3-4 other Russian writers in this tale, I only recognized shades of Mikhail Bulgakov. Suspenseful with satisfying twists of the devil’s nose at the end. This tale isn’t nearly as gloomy as the classic Russians: Turgenev, Tolstoy, etc.
Good v.s. Evil: Boris Akunin’s real name is Grigory Chkhartishvili and he was born in Georgia. He chose “Akunin” as his surname because it means “wrongdoer” in Japanese. What the…?!!! You are saying. Well, it seems he thinks that “good is the norm, whereas evil is an anomaly, but an interesting anomaly because of its variety.”
Warning to Fellow Animal Lovers
Some white bulldogs are murdered in this book. Normally that makes me throw a novel across the room but for some reason in this case I kept reading.
Unique Devices: The River as a character (and a wonderfully-described one too), the story told by an unknown narrator familiar with “our province,” and the section in the middle containing a description of Bishop Mitrofanii’s intellectual dialogues with provincial governor Anton Antonovich von Haggenau, who “used to be a German, but has recovered.”
Most Interesting Trivia I Learned Because of This Book: Akunin refers repeatedly to “the Old Believers” and makes several references to “two-fingered” or “three-fingered.” Thanks to Wiki, I learned that the Old Believers separated from the Russian Orthodox Church after that institution made reforms in the 1650s to bring their practices in line with Greek Orthodoxy. This included proceeding counter-clockwise, instead of clockwise, and making the sign of the cross by joining your two fingers with your thumb. Anathema! Darn all heretics anyway.