RJ McGill's Reviews > The Gentle Axe

The Gentle Axe by R.N. Morris
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Mar 26, 08

bookshelves: reviewed
Recommended for: suspense, thriller, detective, historical fiction, those who like a good book!
Read in January, 2008

For readers that have been yearning for a book that speaks with an older, wiser voice, written in a long forgotten style, with a classic fluidity that can only be penned by a select few…Here ya’ go! R. N. Morris has delivered a novel that embraces the historic elements of a true masterpiece, indulges the nostalgic desires of the quintessential reader and satisfies even the most discerning contemporary suspense-thriller lover!

Fyodor Dostoevsky first introduced readers to criminal investigator Porfiry Petrovich, in the 1866 novel Crime & Punishment. The book is centered around the murder of a pawnbroker and her half-sister by a deranged, impoverished student, named Raskolnikov. It is a year after this mind-numbing case that Morris picks up the story and takes the reader deep into the investigator’s life and of course, a brand new murder mystery.

Searching for firewood in St. Petersburg’s Petrovsky Park, a woman stumbles upon a dead body hanging from a tree. Nearby, a second body, that of a dwarf, is found in a suitcase. A laundry list of items were initially left at the scene, however, by the time investigator Petrovich is alerted, via an anonymous tip, anything of value is missing, thus complicating an already difficult case. The search for answers will take the rotund detective through many facets of Russian society, from the dark, dank squalid apartments of the slums to the elegant, sprawling homes of the sophisticated elite. As the Park investigation continues, other, seemingly unrelated murders occur, forcing the investigation in a surprisingly new direction. To solve the Park case, Petrovich will have to think outside the box…connecting the dots of this disturbing case will prove to be even more difficult than the case that had defined him.

Morris unravels the layers of St. Petersburg and its residents, slowly, like a delicious, blooming onion, allowing the reader to savor the flavor and enjoy each and every bite. There are strong, no-non-sense characters and those that bring a lighter, at times, humorous element to the story, thus eliciting a myriad of emotions from the reader. Gentle Axe is not littered with red herrings and preemptive spoilers, instead it is based on a clever plot, written with artistic flair. The characters are drawn with the kind of intimate detail one ascertains from a photograph and the settings are constructed with the artistic eye of a painter. The author took a significant, yet calculated risk- borrowing the lead character, setting and back story from the famous work of a beloved writer, which could easily garner a host of negativity. However, creating a sequel that feels Dostoevsky-like, that reads like a true Morris original, is a note-worthy accomplishment, indeed!

A spell-binding novel that will definitely keep you up late…reading! And you’ll want to share this one with friends and coworkers –it’s really that good!

Happy Reading!

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