Monday, October 28, 2013
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. -- Hachette Audio
It might not be the best reason to pick up (or in this case listen to) a book, but I decided to read MURDER AS A FINE ART by David Morrell because Mr. Morrell graduated from my alma mater Penn State University. I have heard some wonderful things about his books; and while his first novel, which was the basis for the movie RAMBO, isn't exactly my cup of tea, I thought this historical mystery sounded a little more like it. I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed this novel.
MURDER AS A FINE ART takes place in Victorian England in the mid 1800s. The citizens of London are in a panic. A brutal mass murderer is on the loose and his crimes are all too similar to the Ratcliffe Highway Murders that occurred 43 years earlier. Thomas De Quincey, the famous writer also known as the Opium-Eater, is the prime suspect because his essay titled "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" is being used as the inspiration for the murders.
As tensions rise in London, De Quincey, with the help of his daughter and two detectives, must get to the bottom of these crimes not only to save himself and his family, but also the entire city of London.
I thought MURDER AS A FINE ART was a terrific example of a quality historical mystery. It encompassed everything I expect from a well crafted mystery, but it also brought to life Victorian England with amazing details. I especially loved how the author merged facts and real life characters with his story, and I was equally impressed with how suspenseful the story was.
Truth of told, I'm hard pressed to say what I liked the most about MURDER AS A FINE ART. Of course, I'm always game for a good mystery, and this novel had a fantastic one with lots of twists and turns. I loved that I was kept guessing until the author revealed the culprit and his motivations, and I actually thought the premise of the entire crime (and the book too for that matter!) was brilliant.
However, I also really appreciated how much historical data the author included in this story. It was apparent from the get-go that he conducted a vast amount of research and truly understood Victorian England. But what I liked even more that that was how much of this information he was able to include in the story. There were many asides which brought 1850s London to life including descriptions of the ways people could travel, the fashion of clothes and homes, and even the sanitation (or lack thereof) of the city's water supply. The author even included some descriptions of the police force, prison life, and opium addiction which I found extremely interesting.
Another really strong point of MURDER AS A FINE ART was the character development. I always think this is a challenge when some of the characters were real. I found De Quincey to be an intriguing characters, both because of his intellect and his addiction, but I also appreciated the detectives and De Quincy's daughter. Furthermore, I found the murderer to be unbelievable interesting... in a strange way, of course!
The audio book of MURDER AS A FINE ART was read by Matthew Wolf, and I thought he did a wonderful job. I loved his British accents and he was equally impressive with the variety of male and female characters. This is the first book that I've listened to which was read by Mr. Wolf, but I'm certain it won't be my last. I intend to see what else he's narrated and listen to one of them in the near future.
Overall, MURDER AS A FINE ART was a fantastic historical mystery. The author did a great job of bringing the setting to life as well as crafting an intriguing mystery. Highly recommended.
Thanks to the publisher for providing an audio book of this novel.