Saturday, May 25, 2013
Murder As A Fine Art by David Morrell
Synopsis from the author's site:
The Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811 were the most notorious mass killings in their day. Never fully explained, they brought London and all of England to the verge of panic.
Forty-three years later, the equally notorious Thomas De Quincey returns to London. Along with his Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, he is infamous for a scandalous essay about the killings: “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts.”
Days after his arrival, a family is killed in the same horrific way as the earlier murders. It seems someone is using the essay as an inspiration—and a blueprint. And De Quincey himself is the obvious suspect. Aided by his brilliant daughter Emily and two determined Scotland Yard detectives, he must uncover the truth before more blood is shed and London itself becomes the next victim.
In Murder as a Fine Art, gaslit London becomes a battleground between a literary star and a demented murderer. Their lives are linked by secrets long buried but never forgotten.
You’ll believe you’re in 1854 London.
Publishers Weekly calls Murder as a Fine Art a “brilliant crime thriller. . . . Everything works–the horrifying depiction of the murders, the asides explaining the impact of train travel on English society, nail-biting action sequences–making this book an epitome of the intelligent page-turner.”
Chosen as one of PW’s 10 Best Summer Mystery/Thrillers of 2013!
Excerpt form Mulhollandbooks.com:
From the Journal of Emily De Quincey
Sunday, 10 December 1854
This morning, I discovered Father again pacing the back courtyard. Once more, he had wakened much earlier than I, probably before dawn. Last night, I am certain that I heard his footsteps creaking past the door to my room, descending the stairs so that he could roam the dark streets. He claims that this is the only way he can avoid indulging in laudanum—by distracting himself with the effort of walking as much as fifteen miles each day.
Father’s short stature emphasizes how thin he has become. I worry that his obsessive exercise will harm him more than help. The way he talks also worries me. Before we left our home in Edinburgh to journey here to London and promote his newly collected writings, his practice was to waken groggily no earlier than noon. For a long time, he refused to make the trip at all. Then abruptly he called it essential and surprised me by filling his hours with walking to prepare himself. Soon he wakened at nine. In a matter of weeks, he backed to eight o’clock, to seven, to six. On the train bound for London, he walked in place, his cheeks red from exertion.
“To avoid the laudanum,” he kept insisting, although I know that he hasn’t abandoned it entirely. Two decanters of the wretched liquid are among the clothes and books that he packed.
I was especially troubled when he said, “As my waking hour retreats from five to four to three, I fear that I am backing into yesterday.”
Yesterday, though, is what I am convinced he wants to back into. His journey to London seems about his past more than his collected writings—or perhaps the two are disturbingly intertwined.
Our income from Father’s work is too little for us to afford the splendid town house in which we are staying. A middle-aged woman who serves as maid and cook has been supplied to us as well. Father claims that he doesn’t know who pays the bills, and I believe him. Perhaps one of his old acquaintances secretly provided the means for us to make this journey, although I can’t imagine whom, since so many of those acquaintances, Wordsworth and Coleridge, for example, have passed over, or as Father says, “have joined the majority,” since far more people died over the centuries than are currently alive.
To read more, click on the link above.