Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: Murder As A Fine Art by David Morrell



Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, is the major suspect in a series of ferocious mass murders identical to ones that terrorized London forty-three years earlier.

The blueprint for the killings seems to be De Quincey's essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts." Desperate to clear his name but crippled by opium addiction, De Quincey is aided by his devoted daughter Emily and a pair of determined Scotland Yard detectives.

In Murder as a Fine Art, David Morrell plucks De Quincey, Victorian London, and the Ratcliffe Highway murders from history. Fogbound streets become a battleground between a literary star and a brilliant murderer, whose lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.

Mulholland Books | May 7th, 2013 | 368 pages

My Review

4 Stars

Set in 1850s London following a gruesome multiple murder, David Morrell's latest novel, Murder As A Fine Art, is a fast-paced historical thriller that features English essayist Thomas De Quincey as a principal protagonist.  While De Quincey is best known for his memoir Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, it is his essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" that serves as a foundation for this novel.  This essay describes in vivid detail the Ratcliffe Highway murders, a case that shocked England in the early 19th century.  Now, almost fifty years later, another multiple murder rocks London.  When the police recognize the remarkable similarities between the two cases they immediately seek out De Quincey for questioning.  But De Quincey's intimate knowledge of the Ratcliffe Highway murders make him a prime suspect in this latest case, and it is the hope of England's political masters that locking De Quincey up will quell the rising public panic caused by the murders.  But when additional murders are committed the police must combine their investigative skills with the keen insight of De Quincey in an effort to anticipate the murderer's next move and stop him before he strikes again. 

One of the greatest strengths of Murder As A Fine Art is its fabulous cast of characters.  Thomas De Quincey is a truly remarkable hero, and I enjoyed how Morrell portrayed him.  I also enjoyed how Morrell characterized De Quincey's daughter Emily, a young woman who is devoted to her father's welfare and who cares for all those she comes into contact with.  I especially liked how Emily was not afraid to challenge societal expectations.  Charged with the investigation into the multiple murders, London Police Detective Ryan and his assistant Constable Becker make a formidable team, but it is their interactions with De Quincey and his daughter that prove most memorable.  Even the villain proves to be a well-drawn, complex character.   The novel is also full of colourful secondary and tertiary characters, which include Home Secretary Lord Palmerston, physician John Snow, a group of prostitutes and several beggars.   I'm not sure what David Morrell's plans are for future novels, but I would love to read another book featuring these characters.  

Another strength of Murder As A Fine Art is its rich historical detail.  Morrell's narrative is enhanced by the inclusion of an abundance of information on Victorian England.  This information, which is seamlessly woven into the fabric of the narrative, helps to bring certain aspects of Victorian England vividly to life for the reader.   It is obvious that a great deal of research went into the writing of this novel and, as a result, it proves to be both highly entertaining and educational.  

I highly recommended Murder As A Fine Art to fans of historical thrillers and historical fiction set during the Victorian-era.   However, I do note that there are some quite graphic/gruesome scenes in this novel. 

Note: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher as part of David Morrell's virtual book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Murder As A Fine Art is on tour!  Click here to view the tour schedule. 

About the Author

David Morrell is a Canadian novelist from Kitchener, Ontario, who has been living in the United States for a number of years. He is best known for his debut 1972 novel First Blood, which would later become a successful film franchise starring Sylvester Stallone. More recently, he has been writing the Captain America comic books limited-series The Chosen.

For more information on David Morrell and his novels, please visit the official website

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