St. Petersburg, Winter, 1867 -- Two frozen bodies are found in an isolated corner of Petrovsky Park. The first--that of a dwarf--has been packed neatly in a suitcase, a deep wound splitting his skull in two. The second body, of a burly peasant, is hanging from a nearby tree, a bloody axe tucked into his belt. The detective Porfiry Petrovich, in his first murder case since Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, suspects the truth may be more complex than others wish him to believe. His investigation leads him from the squalid tenements, brothels and drinking dens of the city’s Haymarket district to an altogether more genteel stratum of society. Atmospheric and tense from its dramatic opening to its shocking climax.I read Crime and Punishment sometime in the 1970s, after hearing that television’s Lieutenant Columbo was partially inspired by the character of Porfiry Petrovich. And it remains one of my favorite classic novels, a brilliantly dark examination of egomania, murder, and guilt. So I’m hoping author Morris can give new life, and unique dimensions, to Dostoevsky’s patient crime-solver. Maybe we’ll read more about what he has in mind on his blog, as the pub date for A Gentle Axe draws nearer.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Drat! I knew, when compiling my list of crime novels I most want to read over the coming winter months, that I would forget to note a book. Or perhaps two. And, indeed, Karen Meek’s Euro Crime blog has reminded me that I failed to mention R.N. Morris’ A Gentle Axe, due out in Britain in February (but not to be published in the States till March). Morris, whose previous novel--published under the byline Roger Morris--was 2006’s Taking Comfort, follows what’s becoming a common pattern of modern writers adopting the characters of previous novelists, and placing them in new situations. In the case of A Gentle Axe, Morris uses as his protagonist Porfiry Petrovich, the persistent detective from Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1866 novel, Crime and Punishment. Of the plot, Amazon UK explains: