Wednesday, March 31, 2010


1870, St Petersburg.
Portly investigating magistrate Porfiry Petrovich [originally created by F.M. Dostoevsky] and his younger assistant Pavel Pavlovich Virginsky are faced by crimes at opposite ends of the wide social spectrum of Russian society.

Mitka, a child worker in one of St Petersburg's foreign owned factories has been strangled. He was attending school in an attempt to escape from his life of perpetual drudgery. His teacher Maria Petrovna Verhotseva requests that Porfiry investigate the murder and the disappearance of other children who attended the school.
But before he can begin the beautiful courtesan Yelena Filippovna Polenova, is murdered at a benefit evening for Maria Petrovna's school held at the luxurious Naryskin Palace. Captain Mizinchikov, an officer of the Preobrazhensky Regiment and one of Yelena's lovers, runs from the palace and appears to be the main suspect.

Porfiry Petrovich and Pavel Pavlovich become embroiled in a dangerously complex investigation involving nihilist revolutionaries, Tsar Alexander II, corrupt Princes, Jewish bankers, the ruthless Third Section secret police and even anatomy schools.

A bell rang. A professor in a white coat entered and strode up to the lecture podium at one end of the room.
'Gentlemen,' he said. 'Uncover your heads.'

This fine historical crime fiction novel took my mind entirely off the pain in my leg. There can be no finer praise from someone with such a low pain threshold.
One moment I was on page 20 and the next page 316 entirely involved in the story and authentic atmosphere created by author Roger Morris.
The author does not flinch from the politically incorrect but accurate portrayal of the period.

'....Moscow Merchant's and their propagandists are always whipping up public opinion against us.'
'Outsiders. You, a Jew. Me, a foreigner.'
'I am not a Jew. I am a Christian.'
'In their eyes, you are a Yid. always will be. You are Iakov's son. Me, I'm no foreigner, I'm as Russian as you. But I have a foreign name [von Lembke]. That is enough for them.'

To write about Tsarist Russia, well actually any Russia, and fail to mention the endemic anti-semitism and xenophobia would be like writing about Sicily and failing to mention the Mafia.

A Razor Wrapped In Silk is both an excellent crime mystery, and fascinating portrait of Russian society in a period when the Tsar made a series of great reforms in an attempt to prevent revolution.

Crimeficreader's review of A Gentle Axe, the first book in the Porfiry Petrovich series.
My review of A Vengeful Longing, the second book in the Porfiry Petrovich series.

Coming soon an interview with Roger Morris.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - So nice to see your posts again : ). Thanks very much for this review, too. As I'm sure you know, I like historical mysteries very much, and this one sounds terrific. I always get such great ideas for new history-mysteries from you : ).

10:31 AM  
Blogger Mack said...

Thanks for the review Norman. The book Depository has dispatched my copy and it will go to the top of my TBR. The first two books in the series are terrific and I'm looking forward to this one. Roger has opened me up to historical fiction.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks Margot. I am trying to keep moving about on my zimmer and crutches because if I sit at the computer it is agony when I get up! So my comments on other people's blogs might be sparse for a while.
They have prescribed me enough painkillers to open a pharmacy, but I haven't taken many as I am brave, and also I have watched too many episodes of House. ;0)

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Norman - I don't envy you the process of healing without a lot of painkiller, 'though I understand why you feel as you do. You're wise not to let the internet "suck you in" too much yet; for now, rest's the thing, and getting back to feeling well again. We all wish you well!

2:48 PM  
Blogger Roger Morris said...

Norman, thank you so much for the review. I'm really sorry to hear about your accident and injury. I'm glad the plaster's off now and you're able to move around. It sounds as though you must have been in a very bad way.

I'm really honoured to be your reading material while you were convalescing, and very glad that you were able to stick with the book. I remember reading a book when I had chickenpox as an adult and was unable to stick with it. I ended up throwing it across the room. Probably unfair on the book. It was the greatest compliment you could have paid me when you said it took your mind off the pain.

Hope your recovery gathers speed, and you do too!

Take care,


3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


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4:40 AM  

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