Thursday, May 23, 2013

Murder as a Fine Art

by David Morrell
368 pgs  (Thomas DeQuincy series #1)

I haven't read many books by David Morrell, this is only the fourth. And of the three previous books I had read, two of them were very enjoyable, but one of them was disappointing. With Murder as a Fine Art, Morrell redeems himself strongly. Part of the appeal of the story is the time and place it's set in. There's something about stories that take place in Victorian England that really appeal to me. I don't know if it's because they remind me of Charles Dickens's books.

The story is about two sets of mass killings. The first is the historical and famous Ratcliffe Highway murders which took place in 1811 and which rivaled the Ripper murders in creating panic in the hearts of Londoners. The second involves a copycat killer in 1854 who is recreating the original crime scenes using the same weapon and creating the same level of fear and panic on the city's streets.

Morrell uses the historical figure of Thomas De Quincey, who had been obsessed with the Ratcliffe murders at the time and who had written an essay on them entitled "On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts" as a key character in his story.  De Quincey's essay had been controversial at the time as it focused on the high level of intelligence and forethought that went into committing the murders. Popular belief at the time was that only the basest members of society, those possessing the lowest levels of intelligence were capable of committing violent crimes such as these. De Quincey showed that to be untrue. These crimes were committed by a very intelligent and methodical killer and one who considered his atrocities a form of art.

Morrell does an excellent job in this book of telling two stories, one historical and the other fictional, and combining them into one captivating tale. His characters are strongly developed and by the end I was hopeful that Morrell would be bringing them back and creating a series of books featuring them.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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