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Sister Pelagia and the red cockerel : a novel /
Boris Akunin ; translated by Andrew Bromfield.
New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2009.
411 p.
0812975154 (alk. paper), 9780812975154 (alk. paper)
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added author
New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2009.
0812975154 (alk. paper)
9780812975154 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
A Look Inside
First Chapter
Chapter One

On the Sturgeon
About Muffin

Muffin rolled onboard the steamer Sturgeon as roundly and gently as the little loaf he was named after. He had waited for a thick scrap of fog to creep across onto the quayside, then shrank and shriveled and made himself just like a little gray cloud too. A sudden dart to the very edge, then a hop and a skip up onto the cast-iron bollard. He tripped lightly along the mooring line stretched as taut as a bowstring (this was no great trick for Muffin—he once danced a jig on a cable for a bet). Nobody spotted a thing, and there you are now: welcome the new passenger onboard!

Of course, it wouldn’t have broken him to buy a deck ticket. Only thirty-five kopecks as far as the next mooring, the town of Ust- Sviyazhsk. But for a razin, buying a ticket would be an insult to his profession. Buying tickets was for the geese and the carp.

Muffin had got his nickname because he was small and nimble and he walked with short, springy steps, as if he were rolling along. And he had a round head, cropped close, with ears that stuck out at the sides like little shovels, but were remarkably keen of hearing.

What is known about the razins? A small group of river folk, inconspicuous, but without them the River would not be the River, like a swamp without mosquitoes. There are experts at cleaning out other people’s pockets onshore as well—“pinchers,” they’re called—but those folk are petty, ragged riffraff and for the most part homeless strays, so they aren’t paid much respect, but the razins are, because they’ve been around since time out of mind. As for the question of where the name came from, some claim that it must have come from the word “razor,” since the razins are so very sharp, but the razins themselves claim it comes from Ataman Stenka Razin, the river bandit, who also plucked fat geese on the great Mother River. The philistines, of course, claim that this is mere wishful thinking.

It was good work, and Muffin liked it exceptionally well. Get on the steamer without anyone noticing you, rub shoulders with the passengers until the next mooring, and then get off. What you’ve taken is yours, what you couldn’t take can go sailing on.

So what are the trump cards in this game?

Sailing airily down the river is good for the health. That’s the first thing. And then you see all different kinds of people, and sometimes they’ll start telling you something so amusing you clean forget about the job. That’s the second thing. But the most important thing of all is—you won’t do any time in jail or hard labor. Muffin had been working on the River for twenty years, and he had no idea what a prison even looked like, he’d never laid eyes on one. Just you try catching him with the swag. The slightest hitch, and it’s gone: “The rope ends are underwater.” And by the way, that old Russian saying was invented about the razins, only other folk never bother to think about it. “Ends” is what whey call their booty. And as for the water, there it is, splashing just over the side. Get spotted, and you just chuck the ends in the water, and there’s no way they can prove a thing. The Mother River will hide it all. Well, they’ll give you a thrashing, of course, that’s just the way of things. Only they won’t beat you really hard, because the public that sails on steamers is mostly cultured and delicate, not like in the villages by the river, where the peasants are so wild and ignorant they can easily flog a thief to death.

The razins call themselves “pike” as well, and they call the passengers “geese” and “carp.” As well as “the rope ends are underwater,” there’s another saying that everyone repeats all the time, but they don’t und

Excerpted from Sister Pelagia and the Red Cockerel: A Novel by Boris Akunin, Andrew Bromfield
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2009-05-25:
After the brilliant triumph of 2008's Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk, Akunin's third and final Sister Pelagia mystery disappoints, in part because the 19th-century nun has little opportunity to display her deductive skills. Pelagia's use of her intellectual gifts for crime-solving draws the censure of St. Petersburg's Chief Procurator of the Holy Synod, who believes she may be unfit to continue to wear the veil. Later, when someone bashes in the head of Manuila, the messianic leader of a rogue Jewish sect, aboard a steamboat on which Pelagia happens to be a passenger, her observations prove useful to the investigating officer. After several attempts on her life, she's shipped off to Palestine, where she continues to look for the truth behind Manuila's murder. In Palestine, she fends off a number of suitors, behaving less like a woman of faith with insights into human nature than a damsel in distress. (Aug.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
Appeared in Library Journal on 2009-08-01:
Sister Pelagia is back-again in disguise, though for her own protection. Aboard the steamer Sturgeon, she uncovers the murder of a sect leader named Manuila. Sergei Sergeevich Dolinin, a member of the ministry who's shown up surprisingly fast and volunteered to head the investigation, is impressed by Pelagia's sharp assessment of the murder scene and asks her to accompany him to the sect leader's distant village. There, trouble awaits-the dead man is not Manuila, a child dies, Pelagia nearly perishes in a mysterious cave-and soon it becomes clear that Pelagia understands too much. Dressed as a well-to-do Russian traveler, Pelagia is off to the Holy Land, where she is hunted by an assassin even as she recklessly tracks down the real Manuila. Could he be Jesus himself, having escaped through a hole in time (with some help from the title's red cockerel)? Verdict As grippingly plotted as Akunin's preceding mysteries (e.g., Sister Pelagia and the White Bulldog), this work travels into mystical territory that some mystery readers might not appreciate, but the treatment is both thought-provoking and convincing.-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Publishers Weekly, May 2009
Booklist, July 2009
Library Journal, August 2009
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