What can you really say of David Morrell that isn’t great? He’s a master at all types of suspense and thriller books that he writes, including his newest foray into Victorian England with his Thomas De Quincey historical mysteries. First publishing Murder as a Fine Art in 2013 (you can read my review of that HERE and an interview I had with him there HERE), he’s now back with a sequel called Inspector of the Dead.
Morrell features his mysteries around Thomas De Quincey, known as the Opium-Eater, a man who wrote essays during this era where the dark, cobbled streets of London were ripe with addiction, lust, and murder. It’s said that he inspired Edgar Allan Poe, who in turn inspired Arthur Conan Doyle in his creation of Sherlock Holmes. He also struggled with opium addiction (it was legal in Britain at this time, but most people kept their use a secret), which caused him much strife in his life with dreams and nightmares. Morrell obviously has painstakingly researched the man and the time period, both in the fact that is historical revelations of this man and the creation of his character seem so vivid and authentic, as well as, his time period descriptions are atmospheric and captivating.
He seemed to have a lot of Victorian Era and Thomas De Quincey scholars and educators read through his book prior to publishing, which shows that he cares very much about getting it right for readers, whether its actually fiction or not. It’s historical fiction, and he doesn’t like to take many liberties with the man himself, but creates an accurate character based on his findings, set on a case that also surrounds real historical events that entertains and absorbs the reader into the book.
This time, a murderer is killing people and leaving notes on their bodies of those who have attempted to assassinate or overthrow Queen Victoria and evidence points that Queen Elizabeth might be the final target! It’s 1855 and the English government is already weakened by war, so the murderer must be stopped. De Quincey, who’s become quite the professional sleuth, his daughter Emily, and Scotland Yard detectives are on the move in order to stop this threat.
Morrell unravels the mystery of the murder with seamless ease, giving us clues and snippets, but leaving us hanging till the end. His pace, plotting, and placement of scenes and dialogue are intricately linked, making the readability of this novel very high and quite enjoyable. We see a portrait of a criminal consumed with jealously, rage, and hurt. Through Morrell’s writing, even though we don’t know the murderer, we can feel the depth of his heart on fire with the wrong type of passion. It’s ominous and ethereal in all the right ways for a novel in this fog-laden mystery.
As always, Morrell layers within his novel the social issue of class structure, as those being murdered are from upper society, while the criminal moves around into circles of higher class victims by wearing disguises. Don’t we all sometimes put on a “disguise” in order to fit in? Doesn’t our anger at not being included sometimes create anger or rage within us? De Quincey even tries to breaks the ideal norm by admitting his addiction publicly, as well as speaking to the point that he can do what he does better based on being in a better social station.
Morrell writes this novel from various view points of De Quincey, the suspect, Emily, and the Scotland Yard gents, Ryan and Becker. Sometimes this can catch readers off guard, but I think he constructed the novel in this vein flawlessly. He allowed us to feel better connected to the secondary characters, and sets up Emily to be a very independent heroine. As De Quincey is a bit Holmes like, Emily seems to be his Watson. She’s fierce, intelligent, and wholly my favorite character within the book.
Inspector of the Dead can be read stand alone, as Morrell does a nice joy of getting readers caught up with must know details, but reading Murder as a Fine Art will give you a more compelling view of Victorian London, where he really fleshes out the descriptions and presents the setting to us so vividly we feel as if we ourselves are hiding in the shadows. Though there are also amazing period details in the sequel, and vignettes of other new locations, such as homes of the weathly, prisons, asylums, and such. He’s also moved further past our surroundings and helped us to delve more into the characters and their relationships with each other and within society. The murders are gritty, grisly, and reminiscent of any within all those Jack the Ripper tales. Something about Victorian London is dark, grim, and creepy and Morrell doesn’t sway from that “lonely boot tap on stone street sound behind you”-type of affectation.
Overall, Inspector of the Dead’s action, details, and pace are likened to a screen script, which will leave you playing this out in your head with a clear picture. It will seep into you, making you feel frightened, quite possibly losing sleep, yet you’ll also feel part of the mystery-solving team. Have you heard of 3-D books? No? Well, David Morrell’s writing is as close as you’ll ever get.
Morrell once again mixes a recipe of authentic history, vaporous setting, refined plot, and fluid, steady action with on-point elemental social structure apportion. Highly recommended for those who like Victorian era murder mysteries like Sherlock Holmes, or possibly reminiscent Poe’s Dupin mysteries, a tad of Wilkie Collins, and the social intricacies and period details work of Charles Dickens, and yet with Morrell’s signature thriller action pacing and visual effects.
Publication Date: March 24, 2015
Genre: Historical Mystery
David Morrell’s MURDER AS A FINE ART was a publishing event. Acclaimed by critics, it made readers feel that they were actually on the fogbound streets of Victorian London. Now the harrowing journey continues in INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD.
Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his Confessions of an Opium-Eater,confronts London’s harrowing streets to thwart the assassination of Queen Victoria.
The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters.
Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.
This killer targets members of the upper echelons of British society, leaving with each corpse the name of someone who previously attempted to kill Queen Victoria. The evidence indicates that the ultimate victim will be Victoria herself. As De Quincey and Emily race to protect the queen, they uncover long-buried secrets and the heartbreaking past of a man whose lust for revenge has destroyed his soul.
Brilliantly merging historical fact with fiction, Inspector of the Dead is based on actual attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria.
Praise for Inspector of the Dead~
“Riveting! I literally thought I was in 1855 London. With this mesmerizing series, David Morrell doesn’t just delve into the world of Victorian England—he delves into the heart of evil, pitting one man’s opium-skewed brilliance against a society where appearances are everything, and the most vicious killers lurk closer than anyone thinks.” —Lisa Gardner, New York Times bestselling author of Crash & Burn and The Perfect Husband
What the Victorian Experts Say:
“Even better than Murder as a Fine Art. A truly atmospheric and dynamic thriller. I was fascinated by how Morrell seamlessly blended elements from Thomas De Quincey’s life and work. The solution is a complete surprise.” —Grevel Lindop, The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey
“The scope is remarkable. Florence Nightingale, the Crimean War, regicide, the railways, opium, the violence and despair of the London rookeries, medical and scientific innovations, arsenic in the food and clothing—all this makes the Victorian world vivid. The way Morrell depicts Thomas De Quincey places him in front of us, living and breathing. But his daughter Emily is in many ways the real star of the book.” —Robert Morrison, The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey
“I absolutely raced through it and couldn’t bear to put it down. I particularly liked how the very horrible crimes are contrasted with the developing, fascinating relationship between Thomas De Quincey and his daughter, Emily, who come across as extremely real. It was altogether a pleasure.” —Judith Flanders, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime
Buy the Book~
Murder as a Fine Art, Synopsis, First Thomas De Quincey Novel~
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.
David Morrell, Biography~
His numerous New York Times bestsellers include the classic espionage novel, The Brotherhood of the Rose, the basis for the only television mini-series to be broadcast after a Super Bowl.
A former literature professor at the University of Iowa, Morrell has a PhD from Pennsylvania State University.
His latest novel is INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD, a sequel to his highly acclaimed Victorian mystery/thriller, Murder as a Fine Art, which Publishers Weekly called ”one of the top ten mystery/thrillers of 2013.”
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