Saturday, November 18, 2006

Faber & Faber's Three (Historical) Investigators

Whilst I was updating my Euro Crime database with new titles for next year I came across a title from Faber and Faber called 'A Gentle Axe' by R N Morris.

Synopsis from
St. Petersburg, Winter, 1867 - Two frozen bodies are found in an isolated corner of Petrovsky Park. The first - that of a dwarf - has been packed neatly in a suitcase, a deep wound splitting his skull in two. The second body, of a burly peasant, is hanging from a nearby tree, a bloody axe tucked into his belt. The detective Porfiry Petrovich, in his first murder case since Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment", suspects the truth may be more complex than others wish him to believe. 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. Atmospheric and tense from its dramatic opening to its shocking climax.

This one's not out until next February but it seems Faber has a history (groan) of publishing crime novels with unusual heroes...

In July we had 'Critique of Criminal Reason' by Michael Gregorio:

Synopis from
In 1793, Hanno Stiffeniis travels to Konigsberg to seek advice from Immanuel Kant. Whatever was said at that private meeting, it changed both their lives. Shortly afterwards, a close friend of the philosopher extracts a promise from the young man: never to return to Konigsberg. But ten years later, having become a magistrate, Stiffeniis is ordered to return there by the King. He must investigate a spate of murders which has reduced the city to a state of terror. Four people have died, and there is no sign of an end to the killing spree. Tension inside the city is heightened by the imminent threat of invasion: Napoleon is menacing the borders of Prussia. While hunting for a murderer in the criminal underworld of Konigsberg - forced to deal with scheming whores, necromancers who claim to speak with the victims, and the scum of the Prussian army - Stiffeniis is caught up once again in the enigmatic world of his former mentor, Kant. What demons haunt the magistrate's past and why has he had been enticed back to Konigsberg to deal with these grisly murders? Stiffeniis must face a dark truth which he would rather deny...

I'm not sure if it was terribly well received as shown by Peter Guttridge's review.

The third historical investigator appeared in June, in Jason Goodwin's, 'The Janissary Tree'.

Synopsis from
Yashim is no ordinary detective. It's not that he's particularly brave. Or that he cooks so well, or reads French novels. Not even that his best friend is the Ambassador from Poland, whose country has vanished from the map. Yashim is a eunuch. As the Sultan plans a series of radical reforms to his empire, a concubine is strangled in the palace harem. And a young cadet is found butchered in the streets of Istanbul. Delving deep into the city's crooked alleyways, and deeper still into its tumultuous past, Yashim discovers that some people will go to any lengths to preserve the traditions of the Ottoman Empire. Brilliantly evoking Istanbul in the 1830s, "The Janissary Tree" is a fast-paced literary thriller with a spectacular cast, from mystic orders and lissom archivists to soup-makers and a seductive ambassador's wife. Darker than any of these is the mysterious figure who controls the Sultan's harem.

The Independent's review is here.

Faber seem to have the market cornered for unlikely heroes of crime fiction. I'm just surprised they're not behind 'The Interpretation of Murder' by Jed Rubenfeld starring Freud.

What's the most unusual sleuth you've encountered?


Anonymous said...

I've been lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of Morris's "A Gentle Axe", which I'm planning to read over the Christmas period.

Karen (Euro Crime) said...

I look forward to seeing what you think.

I haven't been able to get on with Akunin's books so this may be an easier way for me to read about Russia :-).

Anonymous said...

You can find out more about the award winning Yashim the Eunuch series at

The third book, The Bellini Card, will be out this summer, you can visit its blog HERE.