Dostoevsky and the Gentleman Murderer Who Inspired a Masterpiece

Christopher Sandford in The Hedgehog Review:

Kevin Birmingham prefaces his account of the tortured progress of the writing of Crime and Punishment with Fyodor Dostoevsky’s terse summation of his novel’s plot: “There’s an evil spirit here.” It’s a statement Birmingham invites us to ponder throughout his masterly book. Can we be disturbed but not necessarily repulsed by the actions of a particularly heinous criminal? Might such a character actually engage our sympathies? In The Sinner and the Saint, Birmingham sets himself the task of revealing the soul of an author, shattered and nearly sunk by the cumulative blows of life, struggling to get close to a murderer’s mind—and he succeeds brilliantly.

Shortly after dawn on the morning of Saturday, December 22, 1849, the twenty-eight-year-old Dostoevsky stood on a black-draped scaffold erected on the drilling ground at Semyonovsky Square in his native St. Petersburg, and prepared to die at the hands of a firing squad.

More here.