Gaslit London is brought to its knees in David Morriell's brilliant historical thriller.
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 43 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.
©2013 David Morrell (P)2013 Hachette Audio
"An absolute master of the thriller." (Dean Koontz)
Say something about yourself!
Morrell has done an able job of blending history with fact to create a page-turning study of 1854 London. The work focuses on real-life English author Thomas De Quincey (Confessions of an English Opium-Eater), whose essay "On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts" focused on the infamous Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811. In Murder as a Fine Art, a copycat murderer who is both recreating and upstaging the Ratcliffe Highway murders lures De Quincey and his strong-willed, freethinking daughter Emily to London just in time to frame De Quincey for the tragedies. The resulting novel is both a gothic thriller and a thought-provoking and affecting contemplation of memory, addiction, and guilt.
I especially applaud Morrell for his Afterword essay, which explains not only how he researched and incorporated true history into his mystery, but also how he altered his writing style to mimic 19th-century sensationalist literature and incorporate De Quincey's own words. His generous list of works consulted is wonderful and most appreciated.
I give this four rather than five stars because the prose sometimes feels clunky and the pacing irregular. Emily, in particular, not only feels like a one-note, too-good-to-be-true stereotype (a "Mary Sue," if you will), but she also snags the rhythm at times by launching into righteously indignant monologues on women's fashion or prison reform at improbable times in the midst of action. Tidbits of description also appear extraneous on occasion. I mostly blame Lyndsay Faye for my reaction to this, as reading her recent novels has spoiled me and led me to expect other authors of historical fiction to fold their extensive research seamlessly into narratives without pausing for jarring "infodumps."
None of these criticisms detract, however, from the fact I quite enjoyed and definitely recommend this novel. With Matthew Wolf's excellent narration, it's well worth a listen.
Due to listening to this book, I can now define the niche genre of "Victorian Gaslight Mysteries and Thrillers." I always liked this genre, but didn't have a name for it, exactly. I intend on reading/listening to much more of this category, but they may pale in comparison to this one. I don't give 5 stars for everything very often. The story was so totally engrossing and you could really get the feel of being there. Morrell described the lifestyles, customs and conduct of all levels of Victorian society so very well and then created an equally compelling mystery. I was so amused by the regular concern of various male character's that Emily (De Quincey's daughter) or "a lady" must leave the room, or could not hear the more graphic or certainly violent descriptions of police work or even relatively innocent conversations, by today's standards. And I had no idea that in Victorian England, that a surgeon was a step below a physician and that a physician (who treated the upper classes) would never touch his patients. Totally nuts, but that was accurate, I'm sure. And then Matthew Wolf did a superb job as narrator and dramatically enhanced what was already such a very well-written tale. Then the bonus of the post-script was very interesting. If you're a history buff or a fan of this genre or just a mystery fan, I think you'll love it.
I liked it all. But besides the terrific story, Matthew Wolf's narration was spot-on.
Maybe, but it was always nice to come back to later.
As an insomniac I started listening to audiobooks as an alternative to simply staring at a dark ceiling. This book should be near the bottom of my favorites for keeping me up even longer.
The plot was great but it was the events that really happened (some pretty shocking) and the author's and narrator's ability to make you feel as if you're in the dark waiting for a knife in the back that kept my attention.
Mr. Wolf did a fantastic job with all the characters even though a man doing a woman's voice doesn't work too well but there was instance when he did a female voice that sent shivers up my spine. NO SPOILER! As much as I wanted to seek him out and choke him for that I understand that is what he is paid for.
Of course not. I wanted to go to sleep but this was a much more entertaining version of counting sheep. If anyone is looking for a nodder, this ain't it.
Anyone interested in history and likes a good mystery can appreciate this book.
If you love historical mysteries you won't be sorry you spent a credit on this one. Great storytelling and fascinating historical detail. I understand the author researched his brains out for this and it shows. And I was really happy to hear that a sequel is in the works. Go for it, you won't be sorry!
Very enjoyable period mystery. Highly recommended if you enjoy the genre. Not as good as some claim it to be, Caleb Carr I believe is great, this is good but not of the same caliber as the Alienist... Do read it, enjoy it, and if you have not read the Alienist put it on your list....
I love books!
I had reached a point with David Morrell's books where I couldn't remember if I'd read his books just by looking at the title and sometimes the summary. So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this book which appeared to be a stab at a new genre for him. Having lived most of hs adult life in Iowa and New Mexico, it was intriguing that he would try and write a murder mystery set in London in the mid 1800's. He pulled it off quite well and if he continues with the genre I'll give him another try. The painstaking research this effort must have taken to tie a real life character, some 40 year old murders tied into crimes of the time were very well done. This wasn't a crime thriller like many where it becomes a page turner but I thoroughly enjoyed this story and would recommend giving it a try.
This time era has always held a fascination for me since I discovered Sherlock Holmes when I 10 years old. The story sounding intriguing, so I thought I'd give it a go. It is VERY evident that Mr. Morrell did extensive research into the time & location in which he set his story. Characters are fleshed out well & both intellectually & emotionally distinct, plot is tight & the descriptions are so detailed you can't help but feel you're right along beside the characters on the spooky, fog-laden streets of London. I should add the details aren't done in a laborious way. He walks the tightrope of giving you what the reader/listener needs, to create the visual without being bogged down. No synopsis...you can get that above; but his blending of historical fact & fiction is seamless. I almost forgot at times it was a fictional portrayal of a few factual characters. It was engrossing & kept my attention throughout.
The main protagonist....De Qunicy. Morrell's writing of the character & Wolf's performance made him jump out in 3-D fashion. Brilliant, flawed, frustrating & courageous....that only begins to describe the complexity of this character.
One of my biggest praises is Matthew's Wolf's narration of this great book. I have the Kindle version as well; but often I chose to actually 'read' very little of it. Why? Because the job he did on the narration was that WELL DONE! Surprisingly I found myself just 'following along' with the highlighted Kindle passages as I listened. I don't think a man can ever do a true-sounding woman's voice justice, so the voice of Emily wasn't the best. However, the slight change in syllable emphasis, pitch & tone of his voice with the other characters gave the feel of a multi-person cast. It truly captured the essence of the time & place.
Whether you read or listen, I can't recommend this book more highly. It certainly is one of the most enjoyable reads I've experienced & definitely one of the finest narrations I've heard for a work of fiction ever.
I am a voracious reader of all fiction genres and poetry. I occasionally venture into humor, history, and science. I loathe self-help books.
Heavy in the true crime arena with some gaps in character development. Overall, solid read with decent narration. I will read the next book in the series and hope for more character development.
I like mysteries (particularly British ones, historical fiction and nonfiction, science fiction and fantasy.
Thomas De Quincey, the author of essays Confessions of an English Opium Eater and On Murder Considered As One of the Fine Arts (among others), is one of the main characters in this historical mystery. His youngest daughter, Emily, is another. Late in his career De Quincey and his daughter are living in Edinburgh. He is impecunious and trying to recoup his fortunes by coming to London and doing what is essentially a book tour in which he would go to bookstores and sign copies of his latest book.
Meanwhile a murder has occurred-- in fact several murders. And they appear to be copycats of the famous1811 Ratcliff Highway Murders. These particularly bloody murders inspired De Quincey's essay on Murder. And it seems that De Quincey is being framed for these latter murders.
The author has done quite a good job in recreating the feel of the mid Victorian era. The plot was a bit sloppy in places, but I still thoroughly enjoyed listening to the book. The narrator was quite good as well. I particularly enjoyed the character of Emily De Quincey.
I don't try write a review as if it were the only review a potential reader will see. I write things that I noticed.
Yes, it is a great combination of a good thriller and history.
Kind of reminded me of The Maul and the Peartree, which makes sense since both discuss the same historical mystery.
Not that I know of, but this one is great. I really appreciate that he didn't attempt an American (or Canadian) accent when reading the afterward.
No, it was more of an intellectual journey, but a good one of those. It is pretty graphic about violence and crime scenes, though. I advise caution about eating while listening to it. (Or maybe I'm the only one who eats while listening to audiobooks;-).)
Not for the extremely squeamish.
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