This week sees the publication of R N Morris' latest historical crime mystery. A Razor Wrapped in Silk which ispublished by Faber and Faber is the third in a gripping series inspired by Porfiry Petrovich, the investigating magistrate from Dostoevsky's great novel, Crime and Punishment.
To whet your appetite, here is a brief description of the plot...
"St Petersburg. 1870. A child factory worker is mysteriously abducted. A society beauty is sensationally murdered. Two very different crimes show up the deep fissures in Russian society of the late Tsarist period. The first is barely noticed by the authorities. The latter draws the full investigative might of St Peterburg's finest, led by magistrate Petrovich.
The dead woman had powerful friends - including at least one member of the Romanov family - so when the Tsar's notorious secret police becomes involved, it seems that both crimes may have a political - not to say revolutionary - aspect. A trail of missing children leads to a shocking discovery that takes Porfiry inside the Winter Palace for a confrontation with the Tsar himself. The usually inicisive magistrate grows increasingly unsure what to believe, who to trust and how to proceed. His very life appears to be in danger, though from whom he can't be sure..."
Morris' dark mysteries are peopled by vivid characters whose struggles against good and evil are played out against the backdrop of St Petersburg's rigid bureaucracy. Almost a living creature itself, the city exudes evil and squalor - an atmosphere that is well evoked on all three 'St Peterburg' covers. But, the real star is Porfiry Petrovich who, despite limited tools of investigation, is able to apply a sophisticated awareness of the frailties of human psychology when solving the most atrocious crimes.