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Extended Audio Sample The Gentle Axe: A Novel Audiobook, by R. N. Morris Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.04 out of 53.04 out of 53.04 out of 53.04 out of 53.04 out of 5 3.04 (28 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: R. N. Morris Narrator: Simon Vance Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Related: The Porfiry Petrovich Series Release Date: April 2007 ISBN: 9781400173334
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Stumbling through Petrovsky Park one cold morning in search of firewood, an elderly woman makes a horrifying discovery. A burly peasant twirls in the wind, hanging from a bowed tree by a rope about his neck, a bloody axe tucked into his belt. Nearby, packed neatly into a suitcase, is the body of a dwarf, a deep axe wound splitting his skull in two.

It does not take long for the noted police investigator Porfiry Petrovich, still drained from his work on the case involving the deranged student Raskolnikov, to suspect that the truth of the matter is more complex that the crime scene might suggest. Why do so many roads lead to the same house of prostitution and the same ring or pornographers? Why do so many powerful interests seem intent on blocking his efforts? His investigation leads him from the squalid tenements, brothels, and drinking dens of the city’s Haymarket district to an altogether more genteel stratum of society. As he gets deeper and deeper in and the connections between the two spheres begin to multiply, both his anger and his terror mount.

Atmospheric and tense from its dramatic opening to its shocking climax, The Gentle Axe is a spellbinding historical crime novel, a book that explores the darkest places of the human heart with tremendous energy, empathy, and wit. As lucky as St. Petersburg residents are to have Porfiry Petrovich in public service, we are equally fortunate to have R.N. Morris on hand to chronicle his most challenging case to date.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A satisfyingly grisly yarn, mawkish and macabre—‘CSI: St. Petersburg.’ "

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A fabulously dark and descriptive story…. [Vance’s] clear, warm voice delivers Russian words and phrases with a lucid ingenuity.”

    AudioGeist

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ace | 2/20/2014

    " Not quite a sequel to Crime and Punishment, but this tale features Raskolnikov's nemesis Porfiry Petrovich about a year and a half after their run in. This isn't Dostoevsky, but I enjoyed the effort. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tyler | 2/20/2014

    " I had a hard time getting through this book, but in the end, I actually really enjoyed the story. The actual writing isn't bad, but it's laborious to extract the minute details. Story was good though, and very Russian (at least in my mind). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Arthur Jongebloed | 2/19/2014

    " This is one of the most riveting murder mystries i have ever read it's like csi: st. petersburg "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter | 2/16/2014

    " This is a neat form of detective book, take a very famous literary investigator, one created by a great Russian novelist and turn him into a character with a world of his own. R.N. Morris has taken Porfiry Petrovich of Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky and turned him into a dark Russian investigating magistrate. It was a brilliant move and is the start of a series. It will be interesting to see how this evolves. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karen Duff | 2/11/2014

    " Not a bad first novel although the killer was to obvious, I prefer a mystery that keeps me guessing as to who the bad guy is. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 2/1/2014

    " R.N. Morris picks up the career of Porfiry Petrovich, the man who tormented, and then drew a confession from, the Piter student Raskolnikov in Fyodor Dostoevsky's 'Crime and Punishment'. Taking on such a colossus of literature as Dostoevsky - willfully walking into his shadow - is the sort of mad act one would expect from one of his characters; Morris has succeeded. The descriptions with which the author builds 'The Gentle Axe', similar enough to Dostoevsky's to retain continuity, are deliberately distinctive enough that imitation is clearly not what Morris had in mind. Likewise, the characters, carrying Dostoevsky's compound of the defiant hopelessness inflicted by poverty while still being individual to Morris, who fleshes out the lives of the former's peripheral names while successfully introducing new faces, worthy of such a story. Porfiry Petrovich himself is alive with all of the foibles - the detective's games, the self-doubt - while all around him carries sufficient freshness to pair this book with the original while not anchoring itself to 'Crime...'. Fans of the minutiae of Dostoevsky's work may pick Morris' work apart, but I think they are missing the point. This book is not a continuation of 'Crime and Punishment', but an individual attempt to branch away from Raskolnikov's life, remain in 1860s St Petersburg, and run with a new concept loosely linked to previous work. See it this way and Morris has created a very good story from a thin sliver of history. In short, murder has been committed in a Russia grappling with a stuttering industrialisation and the Emancipation of the Serfs, and nobody can conceive of a man better qualified to entertain with its investigation than Porfiry Petrovich. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sue | 1/15/2014

    " It was a challenge to keep track of all the Russian names :-) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Avital | 1/11/2014

    " Reading and enjoying the prose and the mystery related to Crime and Punishment. It's a literary thriller that makes you believe taht Dostoevsky could have come up with another case for the magistrate to solve. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jessica | 1/9/2014

    " This was a good story, but the Russian names were hard to pronounce and similar to one another so it was hard to remember who was who "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 12/31/2013

    " Dostoyevsky's renvisioned as a murder mystery. Great fun! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donna | 12/2/2013

    " Very interesting premise. While I am not very knowledgeable about Russian literature I do think Morris captured the spirit of the times and St. Petersburg and I did enjoy Porfiry Petrovich, from Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment, as the detective. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bookworm | 10/14/2013

    " Excellent mystery. A compelling and dark novel. The story picks up on the life of Police investigator, Porfiry Petrovich (from Crime & Punishment) as he tracks down the murderer of a peasant and a dwarf. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 David Monroe | 8/26/2013

    " Less Dostoyevsky, more 1866 CSI: St. Petersburg. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sophiene | 7/11/2013

    " I really liked this one. St. Petersburg, crime, 1867, what could be better? "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Casey | 7/3/2013

    " Meh. I don't think I like non-Russian Russian-esque literature. Entertaining enough, but the multiple names are not my friends. No wonder I never finished War and Peace. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joann | 6/2/2013

    " Surprise ending. All of the Russian names confused me. Some sense of the desperation in Russia in the 1800s with people starving to death. This is a murder mystery with many twists. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kaye | 5/12/2013

    " Probably wouldn't read the next in the series. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Patrick | 1/13/2012

    " Really didn't do much for me. I read it just after Sister Pelagia and the Black Monk, and the plot and the style were both a big step down. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Tahlia | 2/22/2011

    " .. not done yet

    didnt finish it :( sorry! didnt like it very much): "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kaye | 12/17/2010

    " Probably wouldn't read the next in the series. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Karen | 8/14/2010

    " Not a bad first novel although the killer was to obvious, I prefer a mystery that keeps me guessing as to who the bad guy is. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Dolldiva | 7/22/2010

    " It was really hard for me to get into this book, so I didn't finish it. May decide to try it again. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Mary | 6/22/2010

    " I thought it was interesting but not really my cup of Russian tea. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Joann | 6/6/2010

    " Surprise ending. All of the Russian names confused me. Some sense of the desperation in Russia in the 1800s with people starving to death. This is a murder mystery with many twists. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Zeus_sooraz | 5/26/2010

    " A balanced, coherent and intricately woven plot... i like it (x 3) :P "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Donna | 4/8/2010

    " Very interesting premise. While I am not very knowledgeable about Russian literature I do think Morris captured the spirit of the times and St. Petersburg and I did enjoy Porfiry Petrovich, from Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment, as the detective.
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tyler | 12/4/2009

    " I had a hard time getting through this book, but in the end, I actually really enjoyed the story. The actual writing isn't bad, but it's laborious to extract the minute details. Story was good though, and very Russian (at least in my mind). "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Whitney | 8/9/2008

    " Well, I'll never get those hours back... look elsewhere for a good read. "

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About the Author

Roger N. Morris 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. 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. His book A Vengeful Longing was shortlisted for the 2008 CWA Gold Dagger Prize for Best Crime Novel and highly commended by the CWA Ellis Peters Award for Best Historical Crime Novel 2008. He lives in North London with his wife and children.

About the Narrator

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and an AudioFile Golden Voice with over forty Earphones Awards. He has won thirteen prestigious Audie Awards and was Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London.