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Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell

David Morrell has spent the last two or three years immersing himself in all things Victorian London.  The result is a superb fictionalized look at the life of the famous writer, investigator and opium addict, Thomas DeQuincey and a retelling of actual murders along London’s east end Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811 and 1854.  The readers get to delve deeply inside DeQuincey’s mind, and that of the killer he is trying to stop.  We get to experience the grimy fog, the dangerous streets, and the deeply divided society of Victorian England through “Murder as a Fine Art.”

I have to say that I found the murders especially heinous and repulsive, but as the killer’s motivations are gradually revealed, the method in the madness of the killer becomes more understandable and logical.  It was, to the killer’s mind, an art form to bludgeon and slit the throats of innocent men, women and children and to leave the bodies arranged very specifically. There is meaning in everything the killer does, and specific MOs to be followed in a specific order.  Once DeQuincey, his daughter, and the two police officers who believed in them came up with the pattern, the killer became fairly obvious.

This Gothic and psychological thriller is written in a style that is reminiscent of 19th century novels.  The style and the voice was specifically chosen to fit the topic.  Not every author could get away with older styles and maintain them so consistently; David Morrell is successful with the use of old fashioned prose.

This work is not for everyone.  As Morrell cautions, those with fundamentalist view and values that do not allow looking so deeply into early drug trafficking will not be able to stomach this book.  Those who enjoy looking at the seamier side of Victorian life will find “Murder as a Fine Art” quite enlightening.

Liz Nichols



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