I’m not a big fan of historical fiction or crime mysteries and I don’t really read independently published books that much because the quality varies drastically. But G.S. Johnston is legit, he is a talented writer with an impeccable imagination, and I enjoyed reading this book thoroughly. Johnston managed to take an obscure (especially to the anglophone reader) but fascinating true crime case from 150 years ago, and explore it in a way that’s intriguing, eye-opening, and mesmerizing.
As I finished reading and dug further, I discovered that the case had a massive influence on the revolutionary thought in Russia. Dostoevsky, Bakunin and Kropotkin made references to the case in their work. I’ll definitely delve into that deeper because I think that the issues of unjust incarceration, of seeing humanity in perpetrators, of establishing guilt, are all very current and valid today.
By the way, Johnston’s novel actually reminded me of Dostoevsky’s writing. And maybe Leonid Andreyev’s. The pathology of human nature is a complex feat, and Johnston managed it with a dedication that’s fresh but also sadly deemed old-fashioned, something that contemporary authors at times forego for the sake of recursion.
The only thing that saddened me was that Johnston did not try to delve into the mind of Troppman. I understand that it would be a different project altogether, but Troppman’s embodiment of the other in so many ways was just so raw and interesting.
The Cast of a Hand by G.S. Johnston
Published by MiaRebaRose Press in 2015