The Cleansing Flames
The Cleansing Flames is the fourth and final book in this St Petersburg historical crime series. It is Easter 1872, and fires are burning all over the city as portents of the revolutionary turmoil that will shake Russia forty years later. As the springtime’s welcome thaw arrives, the surface of the Winter Canal brings forth a body, and magistrate Porfiry Petrovich, the detective from Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, is quickly drawn into an investigation of the radical intellectuals who seek to fan these flames of revolution. Meanwhile his colleague, junior magistrate Pavel Pavlovich Virginsky, is drawn into a dangerous game of his own. Following a chance meeting with a suspected anarchist, Virginsky volunteers to infiltrate this man’s terrorist cell. But he soon has cause to doubt his own loyalties. Will he finally do his duty and bring these killers to justice, or instead further a cause with which he sympathises? And will his friend and mentor, Porfiry Petrovich, get in his way? The issue comes to a head in a shocking and violent conclusion.
The relationship between Porfiry and Virginsky has always been at the core of the St. Petersburg series, and in this book mirrors the clash of generations that is going on in the city itself. The Cleansing Flames sees the student overtaking the master and concentrates mostly on Virginsky with well-timed guest appearances from Porfiry Petrovich. This is a novel that unfolds strictly at its own pace. While still fulfilling all the requirements of the historical crime novel, it is strongest in its wonderful sense of place, atmosphere and historical detail and the memorable characters that people this landscape.