Sunday, 11 April 2021

Murder As a Fine Art

Finished April 6 
Murder As a Fine Art by David Morrell

This historical fiction novel focuses on a real historical figure and his writings, as well as a real crime that he wrote about. These are Thomas De Quincey and the Ratcliffe Highway murders. But it expands from there to center the story around a fictional copycat crime of the Ratcliffe Highway one, with the killer drawing De Quincey down to London from his home in Edinburgh for purposes that only gradually become clear. 
It is 1854 and detectives are a relatively recent addition to the police. Ryan is one of them, and is called to the scene of the murder. He is in plainclothes and wears a hat to conceal his red hair as Irishmen are often a target when things get tense. The constable who was doing his rounds and came upon the scene, Becker, is eager to become a detective and his diligence has Ryan including him in the investigation. 
Thomas De Quincey really did write about the Ratcliffe Highway murders, describing them with such detail that they seemed like he'd seen the events himself. Morrell has used this story as a jumping off point, using De Quincey and his daughter Emily as characters in the story. I particularly liked Emily.
At the back of the book, the author supplies an explanation of how he came to write the book and the research that he did, which including immersing himself in the world of 1854 for two years as he gathered information on what life was like during that time, down to the food, the clothes, and the streets themselves. 
This book is a literary mystery, a historical what-if, and an excellent read. I also noted that it is the first book in a series around Thomas De Quincey as a character, which means we should see more of Emily and perhaps the two policemen too.

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