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Critique of Criminal Reason Paperback – 6 Jul 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (6 July 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571229271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571229277
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15.2 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,764,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"'A grimmer-than-Grimm historical fairy tale for grown-ups.' Andrew Taylor, Independent" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

An electrifying historical thriller - a journey into the dark streets of Prussia where a deadly serial killer has a city at his mercy. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
What a welcome addition Michael Gregorio is to my favorite authors of historical novels. They're actually a couple writing together, and with 'Critique of Criminal Reason' they've turned out a real gem of a novel.

The action is set in Königsberg (present day Kaliningrad) in Prussia in 1803-1804, when Napoleon is at the height of his powers, and all of Prussia is wondering if he's set on conquering their country too. Hanno Stiffeniis, a rural magistrate, is summoned to Königsberg to solve a series of murders that have caused terror in the city. This brings Stiffeniis back into contact with the by then retired philosopher Immanuel Kant whom he briefly met 7 years earlier. The real Kant actually did live in Königsberg, and throughout his life never strayed far from it. Living virtually as a recluse, he nevertheless produced some of the most influential works in philosophy. Tellingly, the core of his work centers on epistemology or (don't worry, I had to look this up too) the 'theory of knowledge': what is the nature of knowledge? How does it relate to truth?

As Stiffeniis starts his investigation, he soon finds that knowledge, let alone truth, is hard to get by in Königsberg, and he gets to know a very different Kant from the rational philosopher he met 7 years earlier...

Now this may sound rather dull and dreary as I summarize it, but rest assured: this is a gripping tale, with superb descriptions of the haunted atmosphere of Königsberg and it had me hooked from page one. Even better: it's the kind that gets you interested in the places and people described, so I was constantly looking this up in books and on the web. Sheer joy! I cannot wait to get my hands on the second novel featuring Hanno Stiffeniis ;-)
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Alan MacDonald on 7 Feb. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A cleverly written book that summons up the mood and atmosphere of a snow-bound Konigsberg in Winter, 1804 admirably. The hero, prosecutor Stiffeniis, is both human and humane although liable to outbursts of fury as things fail to go his way. Brought in to investigate a series of bizarre murders (although I am not sure that only four such events would have brought the near panic that paralyses the city throughout) Stiffeniis works his way through official ineptitude and unofficial obstruction in an effort to explain the murders and catch the culprit. The introduction of the aged philosopher Immanuel Kant, Stiffeniis's youthful mentor, adds to the mix and contributes another level of complexity to the unfolding events. On the way others, mostly innocent, die for which Stiffeniis blames himself and a previous personal tragedy increasingly looms large over proceedings.

So far, so good. This book drew me in, it was tense, dense, dark and brooding. The ending, however, was its least satisfactory part. Seemingly desperate to wind the story up, Gregorio falls into the trap of too rapidly resolving things, especially as they relate to the murders, and they remain 'solved' but in an unsatisfactory and somewhat vague fashion.

I gather this may be the first of other Stiffeniis books. I will certainly get the next one on the basis of the first 90% of 'Critique of Criminal Reason'. Thus 4 not 5 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amore Roberto on 27 Sept. 2007
Format: Paperback
Readers familiar with philosopher Immanuel Kant will have already recognized in the title the allusion to the "Critique of Pure Reason", Kant's most important philosophical work.
As often, I found the book by chance in the stalls of an airport bookstore and decided to buy because it appealed both as historical novel and as a specimen of the historical-figure-turned-detective genre.
*
This is be the first of a series of police/thriller stories focused on the career of procurator Hanno Stiffeniis, who is also the main character of this novel.
Set in 1804, in the turmoil of Napoleonic wars, the book is aspiring to be both a detailed picture of the period and a chronicle of the last days of the great German philosopher.
*
I won't reveal the plot, to avoid spoiling the reader's surprise.
As a reader I enjoyed the book, but must confess it is just an extremely ordinary police novel.
I just say it develops from a rephrase of a famous Kantian motto:
"Two things fill my mind with wonder: the starry sky above my head and the moral law within my soul" in which the last part has been changed in "the obscurity deep within my soul".
A variation on the theme of the Kantian "noumeno", the unknowable real essence? An improbable romantic or pre-romantic Kant? The darkness of the soul overcoming the light of the moral reason?
The reader will have the chance to judge.
The most interesting feature of the novel anyway is the description - historically correct as the writer is eager to assure - of last days of Immanuel Kant, in an implicit contrast with the most famous one of De Quincey in which Kant had been depicted as a living mummy.
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Format: Paperback
This is a literate, thoughtful and vividly imagined novel which finds an unusual and broadly successful slant by blending history with an overlay of opportunistic fiction. I picked it up after reading the Shardlake whodunnits of C.J.Sansom (set in London in the reign of Henry VIII), and in general terms there is a comparably detailed and knowledgeable approach to authentic scene-setting, suggesting that Gregorio (actually a husband-and-wife team, both fluent in English and Italian) may well appeal to the same readership. Interestingly, Sansom himself offers an accolade on the cover of 'The Critique of Criminal Reason', in which he comments that despite the hero's sometimes brutal way with his inferiors there is never a point at which we do not want him to triumph. I'm not sure that one can agree: Stiffeniis, the sleuth figure, is actually so priggish and repressed that his unprepossessing character does indeed begin to make one see his setbacks as no more than he deserves. It's only one's own impatience to reach a satisfactory denouement that keeps one rooting for him. Moreover, he is no Sherlock Holmes and, despite the suspense, one advances further and further into the novel with mounting perplexity as to how he will ever reach a solution, since nothing clearly circumstantial seems to be adding itself to what he knows. The eventual revelation is perhaps less dazzling than one might have been led (by the general quality of the writing) to hope, partly because it seems to leave one or two loose ends of a purely secondary sort: for example, it shouldn't be giving too much away to say that I failed to see how one particular common feature of all the murders was ever actually explained.Read more ›
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