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Cleansing Flames, The [Paperback]

R N Morris

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Book Description

June 21 2011
It's Easter, 1872. Fires burn in St Petersburg, a prelude to the revolutionary turmoil that will shake Russia a generation later. As the springtime thaw begins, a body rises to the surface of the Winter Canal. Following an anonymous tip-off, magistrate Porfiry Petrovich is drawn into an investigation of the radical intellectuals who seek to fan the flames of revolution. In the meantime, junior magistrate Pavel Pavlovich Virginsky plays a dangerous game of his own. Following a chance meeting with a man he suspects of being an arsonist, he volunteers to infiltrate a terrorist cell. But the young man's loyalties appear divided, his motives conflicted. Will he track down the killers, or to use his position as a magistrate to further a cause with which he sympathises? The issue comes to a head in a shocking and violent confrontation between two generations. "The Cleansing Flames" is the fourth book in R.N. Morris' acclaimed series featuring the investigator from "Crime and Punishment".

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Faber And Faber Ltd. (June 21 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571259154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571259151
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 20.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 381 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #880,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Born in Manchester in 1960, R. N. Morris now lives in North London with his wife and two young children. The Cleansing Flames is the latest in a series of St Petersburg novels revolving around the character of Porfiry Petrovich. Previous books in the series are A Gentle Axe, A Vengeful Longing which was shortlisted for the 2008 CWA Duncan Lawrie Prize for best Crime Novel and highly commended in the CWA Ellis Peters Award for Best Historical Crime Novel 2008. the third book A Razor Wrapped in Silk was published in 2010. Taking Comfort was published by Macmillan under the name Roger Morris in 2006.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another outstanding entry in the St. Petersburg/Porfiry Petrovich series May 25 2011
By Elizabeth A. White - Published on
The Cleansing Flames, the fourth book in author R.N. Morris' series featuring Russian Magistrate Porfiry Petrovich, finds spring creeping upon St. Petersburg. But as the snow and ice recede, the fires begin to burn. Fresh on the heels of revolution in Paris, pockets of radicals in Russia's capital are sowing the seeds of revolution. Part of their manifesto includes setting fires to notable properties in order to burn down, literally and figuratively, the symbols of the perceived failures of Tsar Alexander II's reforms.

Amidst this chaos, Porfiry and his partner, junior magistrate Pavel Pavlovich Virginsky, are called upon to investigate a body found in the newly thawed Winter Canal. An anonymous tip to Porfiry alerts him to the possibility there are larger implications to the body than a simple murder, implications which lead Porfiry's investigation in the direction of the radicals at the heart of the city's unrest. Virginsky, for his part, takes advantage of a random meeting with a man believed to be one of the revolutionaries by using the connection to infiltrate the group. The further he gets into the group, however, the more he finds himself sympathizing with their cause. As events continue to unfold Virginsky's loyalties are put to the test, forcing him to choose between his head and his heart.

The relationship between Porfiry and Virginsky has always been at the core of the St. Petersburg series. It is only in The Cleansing Flames, however, that what developed over the course of the series as a relationship wherein Porfiry acted as a mentor to Virginsky has finally reached the point where Virginsky feels confident enough to assert himself as an equal. In that regard, author Roger Morris quite cleverly uses Virginsky's "rebellion" against the "authority" of Porfiry to personalize the broader general rebellion of the populace against the authority of the Tsar. Rebellion, personal and societal, is a concept that is both timeless (it's virtually a rite of passage for every teenager) and timely (the recent grassroots uprisings in Egypt and Libya), and in The Cleansing Flames Morris does a skillful job of looking at it from both the micro and macro perspectives.

I suppose I'm a bit slow on the uptake at times, but it wasn't until The Cleansing Flames that it finally dawned on me that Morris was setting each book during a different season, in this case spring. Looking back, it makes for an interesting connecting thread that, while allowing each book its own feel, in the end further ties together the arc of the four books. It's an arc which unfortunately has come to an end, as The Cleansing Flames is billed as the last book in the St. Petersburg series. And this is truly unfortunate, because Morris quite skillfully brought both the character of Porfiry Petrovich (and by extension Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment), as well as historical fiction in general alive for me in a way I had never truly appreciated before. Though I am sad to see Porfiry and Virginsky reach the end of the road, I take comfort in the knowledge Morris is busy at work on a new series.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Taste of Tsarist Russia Aug. 3 2013
By Paul of Oz - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have enjoyed this book and the other I have read set in this time.
It is interesting to compare this character and story to the books set in the same time written by Michael Pearce. I think this character seems more Russian and the melodrama of Russia at this time is truer to the history.
Certainly I would love to see what would have happened to the student to main character and if he would have fallen further into the radical politics of the time.
I would say that not only was this a story about a murder but a study of a society under stress.

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