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A Vengeful Longing    by R. N. Morris order for
Vengeful Longing
by R. N. Morris
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

It is the late 1860s in St. Petersburg, and a series of murders has taken place. Detective Porfiry Petrovich has his hands full, what with a new and very idealistic assistant and the terrible summer air with its odor of canal waste that even penetrates his office.

Investigating these crimes will lead into all walks of St. Petersburg life, from its upper-class salons to its deepest darkest slums, where people live in basements mired in liquid from overflowing cesspits. Only the religious aspect of life is absent, which seems a bit of an omission.

Porfiry Petrovich does not have many investigative tools at his disposal. Aside from medical information, he can rely only on his keen insight, and here is the great strength of the book. Author Morris has created an empathetic and intelligent investigator who knows how to help his hapless assistant deal with a grisly death by mutilation, how to deal with witnesses from all walks of life, and how to use the inconvenient bureaucracy that permeates all life, this even with humor.

There is much to savor in this book - the setting, the mystery itself, the vivid characters - all very real, but it is the detective who, in emerging from the darkness of crime, loses himself to the city and its inhabitants and thereby renews his own sense of life and its possibilities. This man we remember.

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