The Brothers Karamazov Part III: The Murder Mystery Begins

In Part III, Alyosha leaves the monastery, following Zosima’s bidding to ‘sojourn the world’. Why, there are more important matters for him to deal with, right in his own family. He has wanted to talk with Dmitri, but hasn’t the chance. Apparently a little too late, for Part III tells the major incident of the book: the patriarch of the Karamazov family, Fyodor Pavlovich, is murdered.

Compared to Crime and Punishment, Dostoevsky’s description of the sequence of events leading to the crime and the psychological aftermath here is not as dark and even enlivened with a dash of comedic effects. Previously in TBK, he has gone into intense debates on the existence of God, or discourse on faith and the Church, Part III offers a different style of storytelling, an intriguing murder mystery, an absorbing who dunnit.

Having said that, it must be noted that the internal conflicts of the characters, the complex emotions of passion and jealousy, guilt and the search for redemption can all be found in this mixed bag of a novel.

Here are the events leading to the crime. Dmitri, or Mitya, is totally obsessed with Grushenka, and wants desperately to find three thousand roubles which he owes Kakterina, his former fiancé, to pay her back so to redeem himself, then, he can go chase after Grushenka blamelessly and not as a scoundrel. Umm…

After trying other means to no avail, he heads to Madame Khokhlakov to urge her to lend him the three thousand, knowing that she doesn’t like him all along and doesn’t want her good friend Katerina to marry him anyway. So, she’d likely be willing to lend him three thousand to be rid of him. Here’s his rationale:

“If she is so much against my marrying Katerina Ivanovna, then why should she deny my three thousand now, when this money would precisely enable me to leave Katya and clear out of here forever?’ (383) Umm… kind of far-fetched, but Dostoevsky is like telling his reader to just humour him and read on, as this is probably the funniest chapter in the book.


Here it is: Book Eight, Chapter 3. Madame Khokhlakov (MK) is surprisingly agreeable when Dmitri (DF) goes to her home to plead for a loan of three thousand.

MK: You need three thousand, but I will give you more, infinitely more, I will save you, Dmitri Fyodorovich, but you must do as I say!

DF: Madame, can you possibly be so kind! Oh, Lord, you’ve saved me… You are saving a man from a violent death, madame, from a bullet… My eternal gratitude…

MK: Enough, Dmitri Fyodorovich, it’s said and done… I’ve promised to save you, and I will save you. What do you think about gold mines, Dmitri Fyodorovich?

DF: Gold mines, madame! I’ve never thought anything about them.

MK: But I have thought for you! I’ve thought and thought about it! I’ve been watching you for a whole month with that in mind. I’ve looked at you a hundred times as you walked by, saying to myself: here is an energetic man who must go to the mines. I even studied your gait and decided: this man will find many mines.

Why, the title of the Chapter is, precisely, ‘Gold Mines’.


So, Dmitri leaves Madame Khokhlakov’s place empty-handed and in a fury. He goes to Grushenka’s home and is told that she has left. Seeing Dmitri, Grushenka’s maid Fenya ‘screamed to high heaven.’

19th Century Russian Brass Mortar and Pestle

Then the thought comes to him. Driven by jealousy and passion, he dashes to Fyodor Pavlovich’s house. The old man is probably hiding Grushenka there, and he could get that three thousand from Fyodor, the money after all is his sooner or later as inheritance. In an impulsive action, he snatches a brass pestle from the mortar and shoves it into his side pocket as he runs out of Grushenka’s home.

In the dark of night, on the fence of his father’s garden, Dmitri commits a crime. The old servant Grigory is hit on the head by the pestle, lying there on the ground unconscious and bleeding profusely.

Soon, Dostoevsky the mystery writer reveals to us another crime has also been committed around that time. Foydor Pavlovich Karamazov is found ‘lying on his back, on the floor of his study, with his head smashed in.’ (461)

That night, Dmitri finds Grushenka in another town. She has gone to an inn to reunite with her former fiancé but finds him not the same man she used to know. She decides to reunite with Dmitri instead. Just as the two reignite the flame and bask in a renewed relationship, the police commissioner, the prosecutor, and the district attorney show up to arrest Dmitri for the murder of his father.


Previously on Ripple: TBK Part I and Part II


How are you enjoying your read?

Check out these posts from other TBK Read-Along bloggers:

Dolce Bellezza

Necromancy Never Pays

The Naptime Author Anne Clare

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

9 thoughts on “The Brothers Karamazov Part III: The Murder Mystery Begins”

  1. I found Madame Khokhlakov the most comic character in part III. And it’s nice to see a photo of what a pestle looked like at that time; I was picturing something smaller.


    1. I’ve just finished listening to the audio version of the trial section. Now will turn to the book and read the actual text which I feel deserves multiple readings. The defence lawyer Fetyukovitch is amazing… I’d say he’s more a hero than Alyosha.


  2. How am I enjoying my (re)read? Very well! I forgot how totally absorbing (annoying?☺️) this chapter is, where Grigory lays wounded, Fyodor lies dead, and Dmitri is off to jail. He is so unreliable in both word and action, and has been so scattered throughout Part III, that it is hard to believe a word he says. And yet, I do believe him when he says he did not kill his father. I even go so far as to “admire” him for going off to prison willingly for even harboring thoughts of wishing him dead.

    “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Matthew 5:21-22


    1. I believe him too, and that’s why I think Smerdyakov is such an amoral villain. I think he’s willing to kill himself in order to frame Dmitri. No, I doubt it’s out of guilt that he commits suicide. The quote from scripture is a good reminder.


  3. I’m nearing the end of this and I struggled with Book 2, as I wasn’t familiar with all the philosophies, thank goodness for the internet to explain. Book 3 gets much more exciting and the trial in Book 4 becomes a positive pot boiler. But also a lot of humour with the reactions of the townsfolk – I’m looking forward to your take on it. Many thanks for running this readalong as I would never have attempted the book otherwise.


    1. Denise,

      For Book IV, I listened to the audiobook, the Constance Garnett translation. Most impressive speech in the trial by the defence lawyer. Reading the hard copy now to get a more literal perspective, albeit the audio narration is good. I’ll have to consolidate my thinking. This is such a mixed bag of a novel, D. sure is a versatile writer, and thinker. Thanks for joining in even though you’ve read it before. I’ve wanted to read this book for a long while but find it daunting. Reading along with others is a good motivator. Again, thanks for stopping by and leaving your ripples. 🙂


      1. Well, I listened to the dramatisation before but thought the novel would be too long. I’m glad I read it, as reading was so much deeper. I definitely had to keep referring back on my way, and a few chapters I had to read more than once.


        1. I read the book and listen to the audio. And for sure, some chapters read several times. And so many highlighted lines and written down notes. Many written with LOL’s too.


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