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3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
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on 17 February 2008
Another dark masterpiece from Morris, featuring the sharp-eyed investigator Porfiry, and a host of steamy, seamy 19th century St Petersburg scenes. The descriptions of the city and its people are first-class, as one would expect, and I particularly loved the interplay between Porfiry and his new sidekick, Virginsky. Long may that partnership continue! - it's an excellent way of bringing out Porfiry's humour and humanity far more deeply. Mind you, I really won't look at flies in quite the same way again.

The plot is also exciting and keeps you on the edge of your chair - it's full of clever red herrings and the tension notches up to a serious level towards the very dramatic end. I'm certainly looking forward to more Porfiry & Virginsky outings. Great stuff indeed.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 April 2009
This is a cut above the average crime thriller,well-written and creating a vivid sense of life in nineteenth century St.Petersburg, apparently based on close research, even down to the post mortem practices of the day. The background of corruption, bureaucracy, pollution, poverty and vice is developed and sustained without the story becoming too depressing, perhaps because of the hooks of an intriguing plot and the varied cast of characters. Clues are slipped into the complex twisting plot to give an ending which is hard to predict, with the loose ends tied up. There seemed stronger character development than in the first novel, with humorous interplay between the eccentric detective hero Porfiry and his sidekick Virginsky.

However, as with "The Gentle Axe" I am left a little disappointed at the end by some almost ludicrous implausibilities in the plot (not quite so marked this time)- which I cannot reveal for obvious reasons, except it's safe to cite the occasion when Porfiry interrogates a murder suspect in front of a large audience. Some scenes are frankly odd e.g. where Porfiry almost bumps into a civil servant who faints when challenged seemed bizarre at the time. I also find too many of the characters seem to be caricatures, and therefore unconvincing. Perhaps I am guilty of taking the plots too seriously!

So, I am left feeling ambivalent, but recognising that Morris is an original and talented writer in this genre. I just wish that such good writing was applied to slightly more "worthwhile" plots!
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on 28 December 2013
Enjoyable, but mainly because of the well drawn 19th century Russian atmosphere. Anyone who has no interest in the period would probably find it hard going. As I am particularly interested in Russian history I would again choose the next in the series, should there be one.
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on 5 April 2008
Although I awaited the publication of this book with baited breath I was also a little nervous. `A Gentle Axe' was such an excellent read, with everything I wanted in a crime novel, that I wondered whether Mr. Morris could do it again.
Now I have read the book I realize I worried in vain. This is such a fluid follow on from the first story that, in many ways, it is as if we have never left the pages of Morris' original masterpiece.
Porfiry is brought to life once more as a deep, thoughtful and at times disturbing character who is all the more enjoyable now he has a sidekick in Virginsky who is young and eager to learn. His status as teacher as well as magistrate gives us wonderful insight into why he does the job he obviously both loves and loathes. Once again I am sure Dostoevsky would be proud of how his legacy has been given a new lease of life.
The story itself, as before, drew me in immediately and then twisted and turned its way to a conclusion wholly satisfying and surprising at the same time. The characters were so caringly drawn that you found yourself sympathising with those you were prepared to hate and disliking those you thought you should be rooting for. The description of the squalor some of these characters lived in or ended up in were brutal in their portrayal but never over exaggerated or softened in any way.
There is a third novel to come and again I am already waiting eagerly to read it.
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on 3 February 2009
Do you like engaging, well-written detective stories with a sprinkling of gore? Fancy your characters inhabiting smelly 19th Century Russia and having good Russian names, with some scene-setting historical detail that never gets in the way of the story? Like the kind of book you don't really want to put down?

In that case, A Vengeful Longing is for you. Or you might want to start off with A Gentle Axe, the first in the series, which I'm off to purchase immediately. I hope Morris has already started writing the next one...
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VINE VOICEon 6 July 2009
I picked this up because it was heavily trailed via the Waterstone's 'new crime' promotion and wish I'd read the back a bit more carefully. Taking a character from one of the best novels ever written and sticking him into a bog standard, fairly far-fetched historical detective whodunit is not just opportunist, it is quite distasteful.

The author clearly thinks he's being clever, but it is just grubby. Borrowing another author's works to lend some intellectual sheen to your own efforts is not post-modern and witty, just demonstrative of a barren imagination.

I got about halfway, hoping I might 'get into it,' and leave behind its awkward genesis, but the story was not engaging enough to make that leap. If it had been played straight, I might have persevered or thought it valid on its own merits, but the clunking, pretentious and cynical device of using a Dostoevsky character harpoons the work. With every implausibility, I was thinking 'and you reckon you're following Dostoevsky!!'

I would recommend people read Crime and Punishment and leave this arch, patronising work where it can be quickly remaindered.
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