Law of Blood, by R.N.Morris

Hannah Ross

Crime and espionage in 19th century Russia.
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Death and deception lie threateningly in the background of R.N. Morris’ new thriller, Law of Blood, set within the sombre landscape of nineteenth-century Russia.

As St Petersburg endures a particularly harsh winter, a young child discovers a body in the snow. Pavel Pavlovich Virginsky, a hardened magistrate working with the city police, is hurriedly called to assess the scene, though personal matters and organisational politics quickly obstruct his process.

Just as it becomes clear that the Third Section – the government’s secret police – will take over the investigation, Virginsky becomes thoroughly involved in the case. The streets that Virginsky once walked as a poor student soon become a fountainhead of chaos, as terrorism threatens the tsar and corruption threatens to consume the city. And, on top of everything, Virginsky soon finds that the lives of his colleagues, and even his own life, may also be at risk.

Law of Blood is a carefully written mystery novella. R.N Morris flexes his narrative talents in combining some of the best facets of detective storytelling with rich, well-researched descriptions of 1880 Russia that lovers of historical fiction would find enjoyable. But on top of everything, it is the fast pace of the narrative that keeps the reader turning the pages. As Virginsky finds himself in the centre of danger, with time quickly running out, it is hard not to be pulled into the mystery.

With its sombre backdrop, Law of Blood often reminds the reader of a Nordic noir thriller. But what makes R.N. Morris’ novella stand out is its exploration of the political, rather than simply the procedural. Through the narrative, the reader catches a glimpse into the suspicion-filled world that was the 19th century Russian state, and it is this extra detail that gives Law of Blood an edge above the average crime thriller.

Momentum never seems to be lost as the story reaches a treacherous and violent climax, and the reader is left with bated breath more than once before the novella’s end. Morris crafts an ending that is not just consistent with the punchiness of the rest of the novel, but one that surpasses any previous revelations that Virginsky has uncovered.

Law of Blood is the new novel from R.N.Morris, published by Sharpe Books.