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The Gentle Axe
     

The Gentle Axe

5.0 1
by R. N. Morris
 

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Fresh off the case of a deranged student who murdered his landlady, noted police investigator Porfiry Petrovich barely takes a breath before a bizarre and very grisly double murder lands him back on the streets of the tsarist St. Petersburg he knows all too well. The sardonic sleuth follows a trail from the drinking dens of the Haymarket district to an altogether

Overview

Fresh off the case of a deranged student who murdered his landlady, noted police investigator Porfiry Petrovich barely takes a breath before a bizarre and very grisly double murder lands him back on the streets of the tsarist St. Petersburg he knows all too well. The sardonic sleuth follows a trail from the drinking dens of the Haymarket district to an altogether more genteel stratum of society-a hunt that leads him to a conclusion even he will find shocking. In the tradition of such first-rate historical novels such as The Alienist and The Dante Club, The Gentle Axe is atmospheric and tense storytelling from its dramatic opening to its stunning climax.

Editorial Reviews

The Philadelphia Inquirer
The anti-Sherlock Holmes.
The New York Times Book Review
A satisfyingly grisly yarn, mawkish and macabre. CSI: St. Petersburg
The Washington Post
The Gentle Axe is a deftly plotted, enjoyable literary thriller.
The New York Sun
A smart, hypnotizing tale of crime and duplicity. . . . Genuinely pleasurable.
Patrick Anderson
Morris is said by his publisher to have previously written a story that was made into an opera and another that was published as a comic book. That is perhaps not bad preparation for attempting 21st-century homage to 19th-century Russian literature, which always struck me as incorporating elements of both genres. Morris may have made a tactical error by inviting comparisons to Dostoevski's opus, but The Gentle Axe is a deftly plotted, enjoyable literary thriller. It's not another Crime and Punishment, but it's a novel that, once begun, you're likely to read all the way through.
— The Washington Post
Liesl Schillinger
The Gentle Axe in many ways feels less like a modern tribute to Dostoyevsky than a translation of an overlooked novel by one of his contemporary imitators, transported into the present. It’s a satisfyingly grisly yarn, mawkish and macabre — “CSI: St. Petersburg.”
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
British author Morris deserves credit for a clever premise-using the deceptively stolid Porfiry Petrovich, the detective in Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment (who helped inspire TV's Lieutenant Columbo), as the central focus of a period whodunit. A year and a half after the events of Crime and Punishment, two men turn up dead in St. Petersburg's Petrovsky Park. Petrovich, a senior member of the Department of the Investigation of Criminal Causes, quickly suspects that the official version of the tragedy-that one of the men killed the other and then took his own life-is mistaken. In the face of opposition from his superiors, the sleuth doggedly pursues clues that lead him to an underworld of brothels and pornographers. Unfortunately, this Petrovich doesn't have that distinctive a personality and the plot doesn't offer much complexity or psychological depth. Still, the author does a good job of depicting Russian society in the 1860s. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal

This historical crime novel adopts the setting and explores many of the themes of Dostoevsky's classic Crime and Punishment. It opens in 1866 with a gruesome scene in St. Petersburg's Petrovsky Park: a man's corpse hangs from a tree, and the dead body of a dwarf lies nearby, his skull split in two. An autopsy determines that the dwarf has been poisoned, raising suspicions about the presumed murder-suicide. The case is assigned to Porfiry Petrovich, Raskolnikov's prosecutor in Crime and Punishment. As Petrovich follows leads through the city's brothels, taverns, and tenements, a number of Dostoevskian characters emerge as suspects. The investigation quickly centers on Virginsky, an impoverished student whose life closely parallels Raskolnikov's. Morris, actually a pseudonym for Roger Morris, author of the novel Taking Comfort, portrays Virginsky with particular empathy and sensitivity. Readers with an appetite for the occasional lurid scene will enjoy; for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/06.]
—Doug Southard

Kirkus Reviews
The audacity of the premise-a sequel of sorts to Crime and Punishment-sets the bar for this debut novel way too high. British writer Morris demonstrates well that he's no Dostoevsky in this otherwise routine detective novel featuring the return of Porfiry Petrovich, still renowned for solving the case of Raskolnikov a year and a half earlier. Here, an old prostitute who serves as a mother figure to a younger one stumbles upon a horrible sight in the middle of Petrovsky Park. She sees two corpses: a very large man hanging from a tree and a very small man who has been bludgeoned to death, apparently by the larger one. The horror turns out to be a windfall for the elderly woman, who discovers a fortune in rubles in the pocket of the hanged man. For police and prosecutors, the deaths appear to be a simple matter of murder and suicide, particularly once it is learned that the two men had argued vehemently the day before their bodies were found. Yet Petrovich, sensing otherwise, orders an autopsy that confirms his suspicion that the obvious explanation is a little too pat. (The doctor performing the autopsy is one of the many minor characters who seem more like caricatures; one of Morris's previous publications was a comic book.) The complications of the plot soon come to envelop both the older and the younger prostitute, a photographer of the risque, a Russian prince, a vanished actor, a young student (compared by the characters to Raskolnikov), a publishing house that specializes in both translations of philosophy and erotica aimed at pedophiles and the entire household where both the very large man and the dwarf had lived. Petrovich ultimately solves the case through a literal process ofelimination, as one major suspect after another dies in suspicious fashion. Morris's Petrovich is more like Sherlock Holmes with a psychological bent, and his novel is closer to genre pulp than to the classics. Russian Lit Lite.
From the Publisher
"A fabulously dark and descriptive story…. [Vance's] clear, warm voice delivers Russian words and phrases with a lucid ingenuity." ---AudioGeist

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143113263
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/25/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
5.66(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"A fabulously dark and descriptive story…. [Vance's] clear, warm voice delivers Russian words and phrases with a lucid ingenuity." —-AudioGeist
Alan Furst
Lush, and exceptionally compelling, but take your time—R. N. Morris's The Gentle Axe has a vast depth of Russian soul: mysterious, compassionate, and utterly irresistible. (Alan Furst, author of The Foreign Correspondent)

Meet the Author

Born in Manchester in 1960, R.N. Morris now lives in north London with his wife and two young children. One of his stories, "the Devil's Drum," was turned into a one-act opera, which was performed at the Purcell Room in London's South Bank. Another "Revenants," was published as a comic book.

Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over eight hundred audiobooks and has earned five coveted Audie Awards, and he has won fifty-seven Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named him a Golden Voice.

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Gentle Axe 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
AtoZNY More than 1 year ago
Not familiar with this author so was very impressed with writing style and grasp of the Russian culture of the period. Never having read Dosteyevsky, can't compare the styles but does not seem to have any false notes. Definitely recommend this to all readers interested in the cultural aspects of life in 19th Century Russia.