Dostoevsky’s "Crime and Punishment" and "Notes from Underground" are his most popular and famous works. And deservedly so. Dostoevsky’s "Brothers Karamazov", on the other hand, is his most critically acclaimed work- regarded by many as the best novel ever written. And deservedly so.
While "Crime and Punishment" and "Notes from Underground" are shorter, easier to read, and more entertaining, Brothers Karamazov is Dostoevsky’s longest, but also best, most subtle, and complex work. It has a huge list of characters, and encompasses the most interesting and most thorough philosophical discussions, which address some of the most personal and important topics that we can face. Hence, "Brothers Karamazov" is Dostoevsky’s masterpiece.
On the surface, this book's plot is about the murder of a father, and the possible involvement of 3 sons (plus a potential illegitimate fourth son). Like all of Dostoevsky's works, the real issues are much deeper and more philosophical. This book is essentially about faith and doubt, often involving the theme of free will.
As is again usual of Dostoevsky's works, the book's themes are revealed through the use of caricatured characters. Few of these characters (and purposely so) would appear in real life. Rather, they are extremes. For instance, here is a list of the 3 brothers, with a very brief sketch of their character traits:
Alexei (Alyosha) Karamazov- the supposed hero of the novel. He is the religious, morally upright, almost Christ-like figure. This does not mean that he is not susceptible to some doubts.
Dmitri (Mitya) Karamazov- a bit of an egoistic hedonist.
Ivan (Vanya) Karamazov- A rationalist and an atheist.
Of course, some of the best philosophical discussions in the book occur in the long dialogues between Alyosha and Ivan. What I appreciate about these discussions, and about the book in general, is that Dostoevsky offers a nuanced and complicated set of arguments for both sides, and neither side necessarily clearly "wins" the arguments. Instead, Dostoevsky’s own views are presented through more subtle means, which involve less direct preaching. This is perhaps why I am adamantly opposed to Dostoevsky's philosophy, while at the same time I love his books because of their writing style and philosophical content.
To conclude, Dostoevsky is my favorite writer, and "Brothers Karamazov" is his longest and best work. It is not, however, his most entertaining ("Notes from Underground", "Crime and Punishment"), his most readable ("Notes from Underground", "Crime and Punishment", "the Gambler"), most psychologically insightful ("Notes from Underground
", "Crime and Punishment"), his most political ("Demons"/"Possessed"), his best title ("Demons"/"Possessed"), nor my personal favorite ("the Idiot").