Review: Critique of Criminal Reason


(the Good, the Bad, the very Ugly)

From Publishers Weekly

*Starred Review* - Philosophy professor Gregorio delivers a stellar debut, a mystery set in 1804 that cunningly incorporates the ideas of the great thinker Immanuel Kant into a twisty, fast-moving whodunit plot. Wisely, the elderly Kant is not the main focus, instead serving as the cryptic mentor to a young rural Prussian magistrate, Hanno Stiffeniis, who receives a royal summons to Königsberg to take over the search for a serial killer who has spread terror in that city. The dead, found without a visible wound, are rumored to have been victims of the devil, and the supernatural aspects of the crimes only heighten the level of fear in an area of Prussia already on edge because of the expected arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte's invading army. Admirers of quality intellectual fiction should embrace this book, with its pitch-perfect period detail and psychologically complex protagonist. Hopefully, readers won't have to wait long for a sequel. Foreign rights sold in 11 countries.(Nov.)
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From Booklist
*Starred Review* - Sherlock Holmes himself would struggle to keep up with the master sleuth Gregorio brings to life. For it is none other than Immanuel Kant--apostle of reason--who emerges from his study to combat crime in this compelling historical mystery. To be sure, the Kant of 1803 is too old to take on principal responsibility for a murder investigation, especially one involving an elusive serial killer. That daunting task falls to the narrator, one of Kant's former students: the magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis. As Stiffeniis struggles to unmask the killer terrorizing Konigsberg, he finds himself increasingly reliant upon the great philosopher. Yet he is puzzled by the way the pioneering rationalist opens the door to mysticism and even to the demonic. And as Stiffeniis struggles to unravel the recent murders, he broods over his own role in the tragic climbing death of his brother years earlier. As befits this cast of characters, Gregorio leads the reader deep into philosophical ruminations on the limits of logic and on the nature of evil--all the while spinning a plot as taut as any mystery lover could want! Only a killjoy would reveal the denouement, but readers can expect stunning--and thought-provoking--reversals before the last clue is deciphered. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From - The Publisher
"At the dawn of the Enlightenment, criminal justice was evolving into a science - in this compelling historical detective work, one of the great philosophers, Emmanual Kant, guides Hanno Stiffeniis, a young magistrate, as he investigates a spate of murders which has reduced the Prussian city of Konigsberg to a state of terror. Four people have died, and their is no sign of an end to the killing spree. Tension inside the city is heightened by the imminent threat of invasion from Napoleon whose army is menacing the borders of Prussia." When the killer tries to murder him, Stiffeniis finds himself confronted by the demons of his own past. Therein lies the sinister source of those murders, and the true reason he has been enticed back to Konigsberg.

From - The Critics
Patrick Anderson - The Washington Post

Michael Gregorio's first novel, Critique of Criminal Reason, is one of those literary thrillers that come along every year or two to provide both intellectual and visceral pleasures for readers who neither move their lips nor fear weighty concepts ... an impressive piece of intellectual mayhem.

From - Library Journal
When he's not philosophizing, Immanuel Kant is helping a young detective track a serial killer in 18th-century Konigsberg. The publisher compares this historical mystery to the works of Boris Akunin and Caleb Carr. International rights have been sold in 11 countries. Philosophy professor Gregorio lives in Italy.
Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

From - Kirkus Reviews
In the winter of 1804, an unusually well-trained judge returns to Königsberg, Prussia's intellectual center, to investigate a series of murders associated with something known as the Devil's Claw. Procurator Hanno Stiffeniis had resigned himself to rustication far from the city in which he received his university education, including tutelage from the eminent philosopher Immanuel Kant. Even though Stiffeniis has been forbidden further contact with his esteemed former professor, he conducts his work as a judge according to Kantian principles of logic, and he's named his son Immanuel. It turns out that Kant himself has ended Stiffeniis' exile from Königsberg because he thinks his former student, under his eccentric guidance, may be able to solve a string of murders whose weapon remains mysterious and perhaps supernatural. Stiffeniis must sort out Kant's murky motivations as well as the mind behind the murders, and must do so as soon as possible. Königsberg, like most of Prussia, anticipates an imminent invasion from Napoleon's army, and is meanwhile suffering one of the worst winters in its history. Should the mayhem continue, widespread civic unrest will be the inevitable result. Like Umberto Eco, Gregorio has succumbed to the allure of fictional speculation about great works of western philosophy that were never written. Unlike The Name of the Rose, however, there's very little pleasure to be had in this dark, grotesque and, yes, rather illogical novel. Customer Reviews
Number of reviews: 1 Average Rating: *****

From - A reviewer, 09/04/2006 *****
In 1804 Prussian King Frederick Wilhelm royally commissions Procurator Hanno Stiffeniis to investigate four homicides that has terrorized the citizens of Konigsberg as the city's Procurator Rhunken suffered a stroke. There is no indication that the terror is over and in fact many believe the killings are the work of Napoleonic agents, whose military appears ready to invade. --- Realizing that the investigation is heading nowhere, Stiffeniis turns to the city's most famous person, philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose classic Critique of Pure Reason was published a decade ago to universal acclaim. Kant and Stiffeniis, who met back in 1793, team up using the former's theories on the human condition to what is either an enemy agent stirring fear in order to weaken the monarchy or a serial killer, Logic proves the masterpiece does not apply to the abnormal human condition. --- The whodunit takes a back seat to the insightful look at one of history's most important philosophical contributors, years after his famous work is released. Readers obtain a powerful glimpse at the aging Kant as he has demons of his own to subdue while he applies his pure reason model to the criminal mindset. Stiffen is a terrific sidekick albeit lead investigator as he and Kant critique criminal reasoning in a fabulous early nineteenth century murder mystery. --- Harriet Klausner

From - Publishers Weekly
A few years after the traumatic events in Critique of Criminal Reason (2006), Napoleon Bonaparte's troops still occupy Prussia in Gregorio's outstanding second historical. The residents of Lotingen who haven't fled their homes, including magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis and his family, live in a constant state of fear. A chance encounter at a formal dinner with Colonel Lavedrine-a French officer interested in criminology-leads Stiffeniis, who learned a novel approach to criminal investigation from legendary philosopher Immanuel Kant in Critique, to look into the gruesome murder of the three small children of Prussian Maj. Bruno Gottewald and the disappearance of his wife. When Stiffeniis travels to the military garrison where Gottewald is posted to inform him of his loss, the sleuth finds that the major has also been killed. Gregorio again demonstrates a rare gift for constructing a compelling whodunit rich with the kinds of psychological insights typical of the work of such contemporary crime masters as Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters. Readers will race through the pages to reach the solution. (Apr.)