Morrell-MurderasFineArt-cvr-thumbMetic­u­lously researched and beau­ti­fully writ­ten, David Morrell’s Mur­der As A Fine Art takes its name from an essay by Thomas De Quincey, whose mem­oir Con­fes­sions of an Eng­lish Opium-​Eater cre­ated a scan­dal in Vic­to­rian Lon­don when it was pub­lished in 1821.

In Morrell’s tautly woven his­tor­i­cal thriller, a killer appar­ently obsessed with De Quincey is recre­at­ing the hor­rific Rat­cliffe High­way mur­ders of forty-​three years ear­lier, ghastly mas­sacres in which not even young chil­dren were spared and which DeQuincy chron­i­cled in his writing.

When De Quincey him­self comes under sus­pi­cion for the crimes, he and his spir­ited daugh­ter Emily team up with a pair of Scot­land Yard’s finest to match wits with a mur­derer as bril­liant as he is fiendish.

Jux­ta­posed against a few scenes of graphic vio­lence is the severely repressed soci­ety of upper class Vic­to­rian Eng­land, where it was unheard-​of for a physi­cian to actu­ally touch his patient (that demean­ing task was left to the lowly sur­geons) and even the sight of a woman’s legs mov­ing within the scan­dalous new ‘bloomers’ that Emily wears (and that per­mit her to run both for her life and to the res­cue when cir­cum­stances war­rant) was con­sid­ered too shock­ing for polite society.

Both a com­pelling crime novel and a riv­et­ing his­tor­i­cal thriller, Mur­der As A Fine Art inter­weaves the com­plex lives of two men in thrall to their obses­sions: De Quincey the addict ever in search of his next hit of lau­danum, the killer seek­ing his own kind of high through the shed­ding of inno­cent blood.

The dual of wits between the two makes for a spell­bind­ing book.

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