Murder as a Fine Art

David Morrell takes a break from his typical thrillers with Murder as a Fine Art--a historical mystery set in 1854 London. The main character is Thomas De Quincey (1785-1859), an author and philosopher best remembered for Confessions of an Opium Eater, a memoir in which he detailed addictions that most Victorians considered unmentionable. When someone hacks five people to death, eerily echoing a decades-old crime described in his essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts," De Quincey becomes the prime suspect. After all, a man of education could never commit such a dreadful crime, conventional wisdom suggests, but a lower-class man couldn't have read the book.

With the help of his daughter, Emily, and the somewhat unwilling assistance of Detective Shawn Ryan, De Quincey sets out to prove his innocence and find the true murderer before it's too late. He wrote about two sets of vicious murders, you see, and he's convinced the killer means to strike again.

Morrell juxtaposes fascinating details of daily Victorian life with vivid descriptions of De Quincey's oddities, the viciousness of the crimes, the prejudices of the people investigating and the idiosyncrasies of Victorian culture. Written in a third-person omniscient style that may strike the modern reader as odd (but which was very popular during Victorian times), Morrell's novel is a throwback to the sensationalist literature of the period. Murder as a Fine Art is not to be missed. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

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