Published by: Mulholland Books
Published on: May 7, 2013
Page Count: 368
My Reading Format: eGalley provided by the publisher for consideration
Available Formats: Hardcover and eBook
Bloggers Recommendation: I recommended this title in the May edition of the Bloggers Recommend newsletter.
Summary from the Publisher:
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.
A murder mystery set in Victorian England is like catnip to me. Frequently the foggy, Gothic London setting is the playground of Jack the Ripper, but in David Morrell’s engrossing tale, Thomas De Quincey and his writings about his opium addiction and about the artistic qualities of an historical murder take center stage. He is back in London with his daughter Emily because he came into contact with someone who could reunite him with a long lost love. When a shockingly violent murder takes place while he is in town that mirrors the minute descriptions in his essay on murder, he comes under the scrutiny of Detective Ryan who, working with Constable Becker, a man who wants nothing more than to emulate Ryan, is trying to solve this new murder before the killer strikes again.
While including the historical figure of De Quincey made this novel very interesting as it is shaped around his life and writings, Detective Ryan and his relationship with Becker stole the show for me. Ryan employs new scientific techniques within his detective work and has to work around his very Irish appearance to solve crimes and keep the peace. Becker very much looks up to Ryan. Not only does the position of Detective pay more, he finds the work Ryan does interesting and useful to the city. There is a scene following the first murders where Becker demonstrates his devotion to Ryan and his techniques that I will never forget. When the pair meet up with the De Quinceys and work with Emily, everything fit into place. I wanted nothing more than to spend time with them, even in Coldbath Fields prison.
Simon Vance’s narration was playing in my head while I read this book. I hoped to discover that he was on tap to narrate the audiobook, but currently there isn’t one available. I hope that there will be one eventually because I would love to reread Murder As A Fine Art in audio. Audiobook gods, if you are listening, please cast Simon Vance. Combining his work with this novel would be like audiobook heaven.
Murder As a Fine Art is a smart mystery that makes the landscape of Victorian era London seem as vivid to me as crisp color picture. I could sense the damp fog against my skin as I followed Ryan, Becker, and the De Quincey’s through the city as they tracked down this murderer who approached his craft like an apprentice soaking up as much knowledge and technique as he can from a master artisan. Everything about this novel and the way in which David Morrell wove this tale of determination, loyalty, and the cost of following one’s baser desires captured my imagination. I highly recommend this novel and am holding out hope that David Morrell will bring Ryan, Becker, and Emily De Quincey back to me in a sequel.