A Gentle Axe

Two frozen bodies are found in Petrovsky Park – a dwarf neatly packed in a suitcase, and a burly peasant hanging from a tree. Police Detective Porfiry Petrovich begins his investigation in the city’s squalid brothels and drinking dens but is soon led into an altogether more genteel stratum of society – and to a shocking discovery which reveals the city’s darkest secrets.

What the critics say

“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

“Morris’ recreation of the seamy side of 19th-century St Petersburg is vivid and convincing … As to who did it, Morris keeps the reader guessing until the end.”

The Independent

“R. N. Morris has produced perhaps the most audacious police-inspector novel of the season with “The Gentle Axe.”….The tale hums along with controlled excitement, as if written by a Russian minimalist and rendered by a fine translator. The psychological and spiritual themes seem worthy of Dostoyevsky; there are traces of Gogol and Gorky, too. Such an accomplished book transcends pastiche.”

The Wall Street Journal

“It’s a satisfyingly grisly yarn… “CSI: St. Petersburg.”

The New York Times Book Review

“[A] smart, hypnotizing tale of crime and duplicity.”

The New York Sun

“Morris has created an atmospheric St Petersburg, and a stylish set of intellectual problems, but what makes A Gentle Axe such an effective debut is its fascination with good and evil. It has earned its author the right to make use of the work of a greater writer.”

Times Literary Supplement

“A Gentle Axe is tense, atmospheric and bristles with the kind of intelligence you’d read, well, Dostoevsky for… a piece of literary fun.”

The Independent on Sunday

“Morris has dug deep into the Russian soul in this book, and his dark, dank, dangerous St Petersburg, with its snowbound, windswept streets and stinking slums, is brilliantly recreated. The hunt for the murderer is tense and atmospheric: the denouement brutally shocking and moving. A worthy sequel to one of the greatest novels ever written: and a cracking thriller in its own right.”

The York Press