To the Depths and Back With Dostoevsky

Christopher Sandford at The Hedgehog Review:

Dostoevsky’s own fixation on Lacenaire and his crime, which he declared “more exciting than all possible fiction,” is the focus of Birmingham’s consistently immersing The Sinner and the Saint. The Lacenaire who emerges from these pages is a subtle, ambiguous, sometimes insidiously appealing challenger to a corrupt established order. “I come to preach the religion of fear to the elite,” he announced at his trial, sounding a bit like a prototype Charles Manson. Almost anyone could write a gripping account of Lacenaire’s particular offense, but it took a writer of Dostoevsky’s gifts, not to mention of his experience in Semyonovosky Square, to painstakingly lead his readers on a course between the extremes of revulsion and fascination. What really interested Dostoevsky, and interests us, is the morality of crime, and how people can come to rationalize even the most depraved homicidal frenzy. He’s an author who takes risks, makes us both laugh and wince, and (depending on the translator’s art) writes like an angel with a devilish sense of humor.

more here.