I read this book on my own when I was in college, and I must say that it was not nearly as daunting as it seemed like it would be. While it is in part a novel of ideas, it is also a psychological thriller, a glimpse inside the mind of a murderer, and I can honestly say I found it to be a gripping read.
This edition has a supplement in the center that provides a "pictorial background of plot highlights" (for instance, the above "disreputable Russian hats"). I'm not sure how this is supposed to help the reader--is the inability to visualize a historically accurate 19th-century Russia that much of a hindrance?
I like the picture quiz at the end.