This is my review of A Vengeful Longing by R. N. Morris.
This is a cut above the average crime thriller,well-written and creating a vivid sense of life in nineteenth century St.Petersburg, apparently based on close research, even down to the post mortem practices of the day. The background of corruption, bureaucracy, pollution, poverty and vice is developed and sustained without the story becoming too depressing, perhaps because of the hooks of an intriguing plot and the varied cast of characters. Clues are slipped into the complex twisting plot to give an ending which is hard to predict, with the loose ends tied up. There seemed stronger character development than in the first novel, with humorous interplay between the eccentric detective hero Porfiry and his sidekick Virginsky.
However, as with "The Gentle Axe" I am left a little disappointed at the end by some almost ludicrous implausibilities in the plot (not quite so marked this time)- which I cannot reveal for obvious reasons, except it's safe to cite the occasion when Porfiry interrogates a murder suspect in front of a large audience. Some scenes are frankly odd e.g. where Porfiry almost bumps into a civil servant who faints when challenged seemed bizarre at the time. I also find too many of the characters seem to be caricatures, and therefore unconvincing. Perhaps I am guilty of taking the plots too seriously!
So, I am left feeling ambivalent, but recognising that Morris is an original and talented writer in this genre. I just wish that such good writing was applied to slightly more "worthwhile" plots!