Title: Murder As A Fine Art
Author: David Morrell
Publisher: Mulholland Books
Publication Date: 2013
London, 1854. A horrific and grotesque murder of a man and his wife, their young serving girl, their young child, and an infant have put the city on edge. What is even more frightening is the promise of future violence as the murder parallels a killing spree on Ratcliffe Highway in 1811. The killings seem to model an article written by Thomas DeQuincey titled “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.” DeQuincey and his daughter Emily have recently arrived in London at the request of an unknown stranger who claims to have knowledge about a woman from DeQuincey’s past. Although a brilliant literary writer, De Quincey is plagued with numerous medical ailments and a subsequent opium addiction.
Lord Palmerston, England’s home secretary, must stop the panic quickly and orders DeQuincey’s arrest. Attempts on both Lord Pamerston and DeQuincey’s lives makes it evident that there is much more to the story. In an attempt to save his reputation and his life, De Quincey and his confident, strong-willed daughter Emily join forces with Scotland Yard’s Ryan and Becker to prevent a brilliant madman from repeating the horrors of the past.
I picked it up this book because the concept of murder as art seemed to be intriguing. What I didn’t realize was the amount of historical fact woven into the story and Morrell’s own reputation as an author and writer of First Blood, the novel used as the basis for the Rambo films. He is also referred to as the “father of the modern action novels.”
In terms of action, there is a lot and it is well-written and enjoyable to follow. Although the story is very plot driven, I enjoyed the characters, especially Ryan, Emily, and Becker. Morrell has written another book in the series with these characters titled Inspector Dead, and I look forward to reading it.
What I most enjoyed about the book was the story-telling. It was an interesting combination of story-tellers: an omniscient narrator who provided historical facts and explanation, a first person account of the murders by the murderer, a journalist type of writer presenting the action and events of the story, and finally the personal journal of Emily DeQuincey. At first, all these different, yet blended, narrators made it difficult to become engaged with the action and characters, but as the story developed, it really provided a variety of interesting perspectives to view the story. It wasn’t a quick or easy read but one that needs some focus and attention.
Who might like this book:
I enjoyed this book a lot and I look forward to reading the next in the series, but not right away. Not to be sexist, but I would be interested to see a man’s perspective on the story. The descriptions are graphic and detailed and very violent, and although I haven’t read First Blood, I would guess the descriptions are similar to a war novel. This isn’t a “fluff” read and will take some time, but if you like historically based mysteries that present a fictional perspective on true historical events, check it out.