Michael Gregorio






Faber & Faber, August 2006
Reviewed by Sally Roddom

Winter in Prussia is very cold, very grim and a perfect setting for murder. It is February 1804, and the armies of Napoleon are building up outside the Prussian borders. There are rumours of revolution within the boarders. Hanno Stiffeniis, a young magistrate, is asked to investigate a succession of murders that are terrorising the residents of Konigsberg. He is at a loss to know where to start. Help comes in the form of his old philosophy teacher, Immanuel Kant, who is elderly and frail, and not as respected as he once was. However, the old manís mind is still sharp and he is working on his opus major, a paper that Stiffeniis calls A Critique of Criminal Reason. Kant is happy to assist Stiffeniis, which is good, because Stiffeniis needs all the help he can get.

A debut novel, and the first in a series, CRITIQUE OF CRIMINAL REASON is not thrilling and not much of a crime novel either. It has a very complicated plot that was hard to follow. On more than one occasion it seemed that the author, Michael Gregorio, had lost his way and was frantically writing his way out of a hole. The whole atmosphere of the novel was really great, and had the potential to be a perfect setting; it reminded me of the old Grimm Fairy tales where, as a child, you were scared out of your wits before anything actually happens. The characters are very melodramatic: some are so over-the-top that they seem ridiculous and out of place, others are so horrifying you are almost too scared to read. Stiffeniis comes over as being pompous and stupid one minute then starts to make brilliant deductions the next. There was also a glaring historical inaccuracy. Immanuel Kant is well-known philosopher who was a professor of philosophy at Konigsberg University; his major work was called Critique of the Pure Reason. He died in February1804, when the novel opened.

Aug 2006 review originally published on Murder & Mayhem

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