The Cleansing Flames Paperback – Jun 21 2011
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About the Author
Born in Manchester in 1960, R.N. Morris now lives in North London with his wife and two young children. His series of St. Petersburg novels revolving around the character of Porfiry Petrovich include A Gentle Axe, A Vengeful Longing, which was shortlisted for the 2008 CWA Duncan Lawrie Dagger for Best Novel and was Highly Commended in the CWA Ellis Peters Prize for Best Historical Crime Novelin 2008. The third book A Razor Wrapped in Silk was publsihed in 2010. He also wrote Taking Comfort which was published by Macmillan under the name Roger Morris in 2006.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.