In the middle of the night, a disheveled and badly frightened monk arrives at the doorstep of Bishop Mitrofanii of Zavolzhsk, crying: Somethings 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 monks eerie message, Mitrofaniis befuddled but sharp-witted ward Sister Pelagia begs to visit New Ararat and uncover the mystery. Traditions prevailno women are allowedand 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 victimsincluding Mitrofaniis envoysPelagia 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 Akunins Pelagia trilogy, will be instantly mesmerizedand frightenedby this latest foray into Zavolzhsks spiritual underworld.Praise: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 TimesFrom the Trade Paperback edition.