The Gentle Axe: Book summary and reviews of The Gentle Axe by R. N. Morris

The Gentle Axe

A Novel

by R. N. Morris

The Gentle Axe by R. N. Morris X
The Gentle Axe by R. N. Morris
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published in USA  Mar 2007
    320 pages
    Genre: Mysteries

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

Porfiry Petrovich, the police investigator who worked on the case involving the deranged student Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, is given another life in R.N. Morris's The Gentle Axe.

It is 1867 in St. Petersburg, Russia, on a cold winter morning. An elderly woman is scouring Petrovsky Park in search of a few sticks of firewood. What she finds instead is horrifying: a big, burly peasant hanging by a rope from a tree, with a blood-covered axe tucked into his belt. Nearby, she finds a suitcase. Packed inside is the body of a dwarf, with a deep head wound caused by an axe. Conventional wisdom says that the peasant killed the dwarf and then, in a paroxysm of guilt and remorse, killed himself. That scenario is good enough for everyone but Porfiry.

In a wonderfully atmospheric novel, Morris has created a world-weary protagonist in Porfiry, a man still exhausted from his last case, joined by a collection of absolutely believable characters to flesh out the novel. Mysteries abound and multiply in layers of characterization and narrative. Porfiry's investigation goes on, despite repeated attempts to take him off the case, and it leads him from the dregs of society to its most genteel heights. He follows clues, hunches, people, and stories to get to the bottom of the mystery--and when he does, it comes as a complete surprise, but one that makes perfect sense. This carefully written and entertaining novel will satisfy lovers of mystery, historical crime, and just plain good novels.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Unfortunately, this Petrovich doesn't have that distinctive a personality and the plot doesn't offer much complexity or psychological depth. Still, the author does a good job of depicting Russian society in the 1860s." - Publishers Weekly.

"The Gentle Axe requires some concentration from the reader, but it will reward those who make the effort." - Booklist.

"Morris, actually a pseudonym for Roger Morris, author of the novel Taking Comfort, portrays Virginsky with particular empathy and sensitivity. Readers with an appetite for the occasional lurid scene will enjoy; for public libraries." - Library Journal.

"Morris's Petrovich is more like Sherlock Holmes with a psychological bent, and his novel is closer to genre pulp than to the classics. Russian Lit Lite." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Lush, and exceptionally compelling, but take your time—R. N. Morris's The Gentle Axe has a vast depth of Russian soul: mysterious, compassionate, and utterly irresistible." - Alan Furst.

"The Gentle Axe in many ways feels less like a modern tribute to Dostoyevsky than a translation of an overlooked novel by one of his contemporary imitators, transported into the present. It’s a satisfyingly grisly yarn, mawkish and macabre — CSI: St. Petersburg." - The New York Times.

"Morris is said by his publisher to have previously written a story that was made into an opera and another that was published as a comic book. That is perhaps not bad preparation for attempting 21st-century homage to 19th-century Russian literature, which always struck me as incorporating elements of both genres. Morris may have made a tactical error by inviting comparisons to Dostoevski's opus, but The Gentle Axe is a deftly plotted, enjoyable literary thriller. It's not another Crime and Punishment, but it's a novel that, once begun, you're likely to read all the way through." - The Washington Post.

This information about The Gentle Axe shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

R. N. Morris Author Biography

R.N. Morris was born in Manchester, England, in 1960 and now lives in North London with his wife and two children. He sold his first short story to a teenage girls’ magazine while still a student at Cambridge University, where he read classics. Making his living as a freelance copywriter, he has continued to write, and occasionally publish, fiction, including Taking Comfort (2006) written as Roger Morris.

One of his stories, “The Devil’s Drum,” was turned into a one-act opera, which was performed at the Purcell Room in London’s South Bank. Another, “Revenants,” was published as a comic book. A Vengeful Longing is the follow-up to his first novel written as R.N. Morris, The Gentle Axe.

Link to R. N. Morris's Website

Other books by R. N. Morris at BookBrowse
  • A Vengeful Longing jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more mysteries...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Yolk
    Yolk
    by Mary Choi
    Mary H.K. Choi's young adult offering Yolk deftly maintains several plotlines running through the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Blizzard Party
    The Blizzard Party
    by Jack Livings
    It is 1978 and the place is New York City. A massive bacchanalian party is taking place at an Upper ...
  • Book Jacket: The Light of Days
    The Light of Days
    by Judy Batalion
    Renia, Sarah, Zivia, Frumka, Hantze, Tosia, Vladka, Chajka, Gusta, Hela, Bela, Lonka, Tema, Chasia, ...
  • Book Jacket: Hummingbird Salamander
    Hummingbird Salamander
    by Jeff VanderMeer
    In Hummingbird Salamander, Jeff VanderMeer weaves cybersecurity, bioterrorism, wildlife trafficking ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Of Women and Salt
    by Gabriela Garcia

    A kaleidoscopic portrait of generations of women from a 19th-century Cuban cigar factory to the present day.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Widow Queen
    by Elzbieta Cherezinska

    The epic story of an 11th century Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Miss Austen
by Gill Hornby
A witty, poignant novel about Cassandra Austen and her famous sister, Jane.
Win This Book!
Win The Beauty of Your Face

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

"Stunning.… A timely family saga with faith and forgiveness at its core."
Marie Claire

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

It's N S O M N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.